Nuclear power is one of the most viable options for replacing fossil fuels as the main electricity generator in the U.S. Some countries, such as France, obtain as much as 78% of their total electricity from nuclear power . The U.S. on the other hand, only derives about 20% of its total electricity from nuclear power . Some of the main reasons nuclear power is not more prominent in the U.S. are because of worries about radiation exposure in the event of reactor malfunctions (especially after the Japan nuclear disaster in 2011 ), and because of uncertainty about what to do with spent nuclear fuel (nuclear waste).
Luckily, scientists at Sandia National Labs are making promising steps towards alleviating both of those concerns. The researchers claim they might have developed a technology that could remove radioactive gases from spent nuclear fuel. The technology involves tiny things called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). The purpose of the MOFs is to attract and capture volatile radioactive iodine particles from nuclear waste .
If this technology comes to fruition, the benefit would be two-fold. First, the MOFs could help with the reprocessing of nuclear waste (separating re-fissionable material from waste in spent fuel). The re-fissionable fuel would be reacted again to extract more energy from the fuel (some countries, such as France, Russia and India already reprocess fuel using different methods). Also, with the re-fissionable fuel no longer considered “waste,” the total volume of high-level nuclear waste to be disposed of would be lessened. Finally, in the event of a nuclear disaster, the MOFs could be used to help clean up from the accident .
I personally think nuclear power is much cleaner and better than burning traditional fossil fuels. I understand the concerns about radiation exposure in the event of (rare) disasters, and the issue of to do with nuclear waste. Nevertheless, I think the benefits outweigh the risks, and a greater percentage of our electricity should come from nuclear power. I think that if a technology such as the one described above really does work, and can be put to widespread use, opponents of nuclear power will have a much harder time arguing their case.