Energy of the Future / L’énergie du futur
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High Temperature Nuclear Reactors Could Recover Rare Minerals; Predecessor to the Plasma Torch

Printable version / Version imprimable

EIRNS—A four-year study by the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded that there is the potential to use modular high-temperature nuclear reactors, that are designed to produce both electricity and heat, to recover rare minerals from "unconventional" sources. As an example, they found that it would be economically viable to extract uranium as a byproduct of primary ore processing. The study was carried out by 17 institutes from 16 IAEA member nations.

They consider the criterion for development what they call "energy neutrality," which is that the energy produced by the uranium is equal to or larger than the energy required for primary ore processing, uranium processing, conversion, enrichment, and fuel production. The study concludes that the HTGR application can meet that criterion.

Although a number of countries have researched HTRs,—notably Germany and the U.S.—only two research reactors are in operation, in Japan and China. China is now building a prototype for a full-scale operating pebble bed high-temperature reactor.

The high-temperature application from an advanced fission reactor for minerals processing would be a predecessor of the fusion torch. [mgf]