By Jeff McMahon

Like the United States, South Korea has a growing, burdensome stockpile of spent nuclear fuel. But Korea plans to do something about it, using technology that has been gathering dust in the U.S. to build a reactor that will recycle spent fuel to produce more electricity and less noxious waste.

To build the Generation IV sodium-fast reactor, South Korea has partnered with Argonne National Laboratory, whose scientists have been advocating the technology since the 1940s.

“In the U.S.A. you have good experience for metal-fuel sodium fast reactors, but you don’t have any plan for design and construction of SFRs,” said Younggyun Kim, director of South Korea’s Sodium Fast Reactor Development Agency, in an appearance at the University of Chicago Tuesday…

Unlike light-water reactors, SFs will not suffer meltdowns, said physicist Robert Rosner, former director of Argonne and a founder of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago, which hosted the Korean visitors Tuesday. When SFRs lose power for cooling, they begin to get hot, but the fuel assemblies stop reacting and begin to cool before they reach their melting point.

“”It’s an amazing design. It’s one of the reasons Enrico Fermi himself pushed for this type of reactor,” Rosner said.

“We should have never gone down the light-water reactor route,” he added, “but we did.”

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