China has plans in place to have a new hybrid reactor that has the potential to burn nuclear waste up and running by 2030.
The reactor would be able to dispose of the nuclear waste via a fusion-fission combined method. Nuclear plants typically produce large amounts of uranium-238 – one of the main components of nuclear waste – which cannot be processed by fissile reactors but a hybrid reactor would have the ability to turn it into fuel, or at least that's what's being theorised by the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics which is designing the plant.
China's Science and Technology Daily, which is operated by the country's Ministry of Science and Technology, first reported the news and if China is successful, it would beat a host of nations including the US and Russia which have toyed with the idea of a hybrid reactor for some time, but have no plans to go ahead.
Fission splits atoms while fusion merges atoms and while both are highly successful, the former makes a lot of waste while the latter uses more energy to run.
China has pledged to attempt to limit the environmental damage that it causes – which has been typically high following its industrial revolution – and if the scheme is successful, it will reduce emissions dramatically.
Deputy director of the project Professor Wang Hongwen said that it will be able to generate up to three times the amount of power than a fission reactor produces, and will be a lot safer.
However, sceptics are unsure that it will actually come to fruition. One unnamed source – a physicist at Tsinghua University – is quoted by South China Morning Post as saying: "A viable fusion reactor is nowhere in sight, not to mention a hybrid.
"It's like talking about hybrid cars before the internal combustion engine was even invented. We will be lucky to have the first fusion reactor in 50 years. I don't think a hybrid can be built way before that."