3D printing is finding more and more innovative applications – from printing meat in space to using giant printers to fashion entire boats – and the latest intriguing development is using the technology to help recycle more nuclear waste.
Over in the US, scientists from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have 3D-printed parts which will facilitate recycling more spent nuclear fuel.
Currently, nuclear engineers can recycle 95% of spent fuel from a nuclear reactor, with the remaining 5% having to be stored as ‘long-term’ waste. The aforementioned 3D-printed equipment can be used to sort and recycle some of the latter, meaning that an extra 2% of nuclear waste can be recycled. Long term waste can be dangerous, misplaced, stolen or dispose of later in an incorrect manner.
2% might not sound like a particularly impressive percentage, but when you consider that it’s 2% of 5% of waste that can’t be dealt with without moving to some kind of long-term storage – which obviously isn’t an ideal scenario – you get a bit more of an idea of the sort of leap that’s being made here. Transporting the nuclear waste can be more dangerous than storing it!