Silicon Valley startup wants to build tiny nuclear reactors that use nuclear waste to operate

A Silicon Valley startup wants to build nuclear microreactors that would run off nuclear waste.

Credits: Gensler

Oklo, a Silicon Valley-based startup, is on a mission to build tiny nuclear reactors that would use spent fuel from much bigger reactors to operate. As per Futurism, the 22-person company envisions its customers, including utility companies, industrial sites, and college campuses.

In an interview with CNBC, Nuclear Innovation Alliance’s project manager, Alex Gilbert, explained:

“Microreactors are an exciting innovation that completely flips the technology story for nuclear energy.”

The startup’s “fast reactor” plant would operate using energy from already-spent nuclear reactor fuel.

Gilbert added:

“Microreactors promise to turn this paradigm on its head by approaching cost competitiveness through technological learning.”

To cover their microreactors, Oklo designed aesthetically pleasing “sleek” A-frame structures, which are also good for protection against snow and other precipitation.

Credits: Gensler

The company is planning to work with spent reactor fuel from the Experimental Breeder Reactor II, which was operated by Argonne National Laboratory at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho between 1964 and 1994.

Jess Gehin, associate laboratory director of the Nuclear Science and Technology Directorate at the Idaho National Laboratory, stated:

“The reuse of materials has been long an option to better utilize natural resources, uranium in this case, as well as decreasing the amount of used fuel that must be ultimately disposed.

This is a common practice in some countries like France but not in the US, as economics do not favor this path.”

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