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Can Reusing Spent Nuclear Fuel Solve Our Energy Problems? via National Geographic

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As cofounder and CEO of Boston-based startup Transatomic Power, Dewan and fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad Mark Massie are working on commercial-scale development of a molten salt reactor first prototyped in the 1960s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“We’ve changed the design to make it more compact, power dense, and able to run on spent nuclear fuel,’’ says the 31-year-old Dewan, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer whose energy and hip style belies the public image of a nuclear scientist as a lab-coated, pocket protector–wearing middle-aged man.

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But Transatomic also offers a solution to the problem of where to store spent nuclear fuel, which has long vexed scientists. Typical nuclear reactors consume only a fraction of the energy in their uranium fuel, which has lead to vast amounts of spent radioactive fuel rods. Transatomic’s molten salt reactors would use that spent waste.

“The world’s stockpile of nuclear waste is about 300,000 metric tons, about a football field’s worth that’s two meters deep,’’ Dewan says. “There’s a tremendous amount of energy that’s left. With that waste, a waste-consuming molten salt reactor could produce enough electrical energy to power the world for decades.”

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