Curio is a nuclear waste recycling startup aiming to solve the problem of 2,000 tons of new nuclear waste created in the US each year | tech news

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Energy drives the world. Today, according to US Energy Information and Administration (EIA) data, nuclear power currently provides about 20 percent of US electricity — and 50 percent of carbon-free electricity. However, what is rarely discussed is the total energy life cycle or Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).

Just like other energy sources, nuclear power plants produce waste while generating electricity. After the energy is generated, most of the radioactivity associated with nuclear power remains in the fuel in which it was generated. This waste is classified as high-level radioactive waste, a type of hazardous waste that contains radioactive material.

Unbeknownst to millions of Americans, there is currently no nuclear waste repository in the United States. Instead, nuclear waste is stored in dry drums at the sites of current and former nuclear power plants across the country.

The United States is not alone. Around the world, around 490,000 tons of radioactive spent fuel elements are temporarily stored above ground in basins and drying casks. No spent nuclear fuel anywhere in the world has ever been taken to a repository. Now a California tech startup has embarked on a mission to change that for the better.

Enter Curio, a New York-based nuclear waste recycling start-up focused on commercializing the case for a closed fuel cycle with recycling nuclear waste and unleashing the full potential of the atom. From closing the loop to producing proliferation-hardened alternative fuels for its current fleet of reactors, advanced reactors, nuclear medicine, space applications, and advanced batteries, Curios is unleashing the full potential of the atom.

“The United States generates about 2,000 tons of new nuclear waste annually, in addition to the approximately 86,000 tons already generated. Reprocessing nuclear waste is one way to make it less radioactive, but there is only enough capacity worldwide to reprocess 2,400 tons per year, most of it in France (1,700 tons) and Russia (400 tons).”

Founded in 2020 by Rabbi Yechezkel Moskowitz, Curio specializes in clean energy, a significantly smaller ecological footprint and advanced medicine. In January, Curio named Ed McGinnis CEO. McGinnis worked for the Department of Energy from 1991 to 2021 and has first-hand knowledge of the nuclear waste problem in the United States.

In an interview with CNBC, McGinnis said the company aims to solve the nuclear waste problem for the United States while making valuable products from the used fuel, including fuel for next-generation reactors and isotopes valuable for space batteries and medical processes name a few examples.

McGinnis told CNBC that the 10-person startup plans to have a pilot plant up and running in six years and a commercial plant to recycle nuclear waste by 2035. Curio’s commercial facility will have a capacity of 4,000 tons when fully expanded. It will cost $5 billion to build and will be roughly the size of an NFL football stadium.

“We would take ownership of all 86,000 tons and the federal government and the public would never see this highly radioactive material on their books again, we would bear the burden of it,” McGinnis said. “And we would take trash and turn it into products and treasures. That is our business field.”

Unlike the existing process called PUREX (Plutonium Uranium Reduction Extraction) “which, among other things, separates and extracts plutonium in a pure stream,” which may pose a problem under nuclear non-proliferation treaties, Curio’s technology will be different.

“We have a process where we never separate pure plutonium,” McGinnis said. “We will never do that because we want to have a security-hardened proliferation process. We have self-protection built in.”

Meanwhile, Ashutosh Goel, a Rutgers professor who has researched how to deal with nuclear waste using a process called “immobilization,” said Curio’s goals are impressive.

“Yes, Curio’s goal is ambitious. But isn’t that the case with nuclear energy?” Goel told CNBC. “If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint and meeting the nation’s energy needs, we cannot achieve that goal without nuclear power.”

Curios is one of the few startups solving the nuclear waste problem. Deep Isolation is another tech startup founded by a daughter-father team with the goal of burying nuclear waste and disposing of it safely. Unlike the current approach, Deep Isolation’s nuclear waste solutions offer a sophisticated system that isolates waste from the biosphere.



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