In the mind of Texas A&M University physicist Peter McIntyre, two of America's most pressing energy challenges -- what to do with radiotoxic spent nuclear fuel and dwindling energy resources -- can be solved in one scientific swipe. He is developing the technology that is capable of destroying the dangerous waste and, at the same time, potentially providing safe nuclear power for thousands of years into the future.
In his high-energy physics laboratory east of the Texas A&M campus, McIntyre and his research team are developing a new form of green nuclear power that would extract 10 times more energy out of spent nuclear fuel rods than currently obtained in the first use, as well as destroy the transuranics -- the chemical elements beyond uranium in the periodic table -- lurking within the hazardous toxic soup of used nuclear fuel.
Although viewed as a major national issue, McIntyre says the nuclear waste problem is a multifaceted one for which no viable solution yet has emerged, despite decades of discussion. Most recently in 2010, federal authorities scrapped a plan to create a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada to store the nationwide spent nuclear fuel capacity that now stands at 65,000 tons.