An old nuclear technology is getting another look, and it could mean clean, emission-free electricity, while at the same solving the problem of nuclear waste. It's called a molten salt reactor, and it's an idea that dates to the late 1950s. A start-up called Transatomic Power, based in Cambridge, Mass., is working on a newer version that uses nuclear waste as fuel. Transatomic's founders are Russ Wilcox, formerly the CEO of E-Ink, and Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie, two MIT students.
The reactor still makes waste, but what comes out is radioactive for only 300 years, as opposed to millennia. Transatomic calls it a Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor, or WAMSR.
"It's stuff that is in the middle of the periodic table," said Dewan, Transatomic's chief science officer. "It's a lot easier to isolate."
A big selling point of this design is that it would help deal with the nuclear waste problem. The Nuclear Energy Institute says there are some 67,000 metric tons of uranium from fuel in the United States alone. It can also be built smaller at lower costs out of modular parts.