The DBI reactor enables the nuclear industry to expand its energy production capabilities without a concomitant increase in long-lived radioactive waste.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publications indicate that thorium waste radiotoxicity can be 90-99% lower for long-term storage (years 100 to 10,000) than the waste from a conventional nuclear power plant with the same power output fueled by uranium [IAEA-TECDOC-1155, p. 118 (May 2000)].
This is important because the main engineering challenge associated with nuclear waste is exactly this problem of long-term storage. It is well-known how to build a container that will keep the waste safe for hundreds of years. Beyond that (years 500 to 10000), nuclear waste storage system viability (such as the Yucca Mountain project) is questionable since it is extremely difficult to predict geological events over 10,000 years. The thorium fuel cycle, which is much less radiotoxic in the long-term, presents a major improvement in nuclear waste handling over the life of the nuclear waste.
The world’s 439 nuclear reactors generate approximately 6% of the world’s power and 15% of the world’s electricity. These reactors by and large use uranium as a fuel source. Since 1954, when the first commercial reactor came on line, the world has produced hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste. In the US alone, 50000 plus tons are waiting to be properly disposed of in the as-of-yet inactive Yucca Mountain complex.
Because of its long-term radiotoxicity levels, radioactive waste from uranium-powered nuclear reactors is one of the major impediments to enhanced acceptance of nuclear reactors. The DBI thorium reactor design greatly reduces this concern since its waste is much less radiotoxic.
In addition, since there is no need to remove spent fuel from the DBI reactor during the reactor’s 60 year operating life, the DBI reactor facility does not need temporary waste storage ponds, etc. Upon decommissioning, waste from the DBI design can be stored in situ in the reactor.