Ed is familiar with the nuclear waste problem in the US. He worked in the U.S. Department of Energy from 1991 to 2021.
In a phone conversation with CNBC in June, McGinnis said that he had tire tracks on his back from trying to lead the United States to develop and execute a long term storage plan for nuclear waste.
Both parties agree that finding a permanent solution is politically impractical. There is an unresolved problem that is the largest ball and chain on the ankle of the U.S. nuclear energy sector.This undated image obtained 22 February, 2004 shows the entrance to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository located in Nye County, Nevada, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Although he no longer works for the government, McGinnis is still working to solve the nuclear waste problem at the helm of a startup called Curio, founded in 2020 by brothers Yechezkel and Yehudah Moskowitz.
Curio was founded by the brothers to develop nuclear reactor designs. There are already many companies that are innovative in that area, but less competition to deal with the nuclear waste issue.
Approximately 86,000 tons of nuclear waste have already been generated by the United States. There is only a small amount of capacity in the world to reprocess 2,400 tons of nuclear waste annually, and most of that is in France and Russia.
The startup is still in the very early stages of a capital intensive build out. It wants to have a pilot facility up and running in six years and a commercial nuclear waste reprocessing facility up and running by the year 2035.
When built out, Curio's commercial plant will have a 4,000 metric ton capacity. It will cost $5 billion and be about the size of a football stadium.
The public wouldn't see high level radioactive material on their books again if we took title of all 86,000 metric tons. Trash would be turned into products and treasures. Our business line is that.Ed McGinnis, CEO of Curio.
The fuel that comes from conventional reactor waste is only 4% of the potential energy value. It has enough radiation to hurt humans for a million years.
Nuclear waste can be turned into usable products, such as fuel for advanced nuclear reactor, as well as isotopes that can be used for other purposes, such as generating ingredients to make power sources for space missions, and power sources for tiny batteries.
The process reduces the amount of radioactive waste. It would take about 300 years for that waste to be put away.
“There is essentially a treasure trove of products and commodities that are waiting to be extracted from this so called waste.”
There is a treasure trove of products and commodities that are waiting to be taken away from this waste.
The chemistry is being re-validated right now. Some of that work involves collaborating with scientists at the national labs around the country.
Curio's technology will be different from an existing process that separates plutonium from a pure stream, which can be a problem under nuclear weapons non-proliferation treaties.
There is a process where we never separate out plutonium. We want to have a security-hardened process, so we won't do that. Self- protection is built into us.Jim Geary, facility manager at the Waste Receiving and Processing facility (WARP), looks over a shipment of three TRUPACT transport containers on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation June 30, 2005 near Richland, Washington. Each container holds 14 55-gallon drums of transuranic (TRU) waste that has been processed and will be sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.
Nuclear waste can be difficult to convince local community members to accept. Public communication is crucial.
Curio wouldn't name the states it is talking to about locating its facility there. Many local communities would benefit from the economics. A facility like ours would hire over 3000 people.
It will be easier to negotiate for a recycling facility than it will be for a permanent repository, according to McGinnis.
I met with states to convince them to accept material that will be there for 10,000 years. It is a very difficult thing. I can understand why people think that is a big issue. Again, this is fruit.
Steve Nesbit, the former president of the American Nuclear Society, told CNBC that the U.S. needs to explore new and innovative technologies.
He told CNBC that it made sense to develop and deploy recycling for advanced reactor materials. He told CNBC that it is better for some advanced reactor designs to recycle waste and put it back into the fleet.
Curio is keeping its cards close to the vest for now.
Ashutosh Goel, a Rutgers professor who has done research on dealing with nuclear waste, said Curio's goals are formidable.
Curio's target isambitious. Isn't that the case with nukes? Goel spoke to CNBC. Nuclear energy is the only way to reduce the carbon footprint and still meet the energy demands of the nation.
Goal is aware of Curio and McGinnis, but not personally. Ed is well-known in the field of nuclear energy due to his leadership roles in the US Department of Energy. Goel hopes for positive things from Curio.
A proposal for a government grant with Curio is being worked on by a nuclear engineer.
Curio has a good chance of making progress in this area since they use lessons from the past. They are partnering with national laboratories to take advantage of the latest research and development.
The work could transform the industry if it succeeds.
It affects public opinion, acceptance, economics, and investors, because it is a heavy ball and chain on the nuclear sector. When we finally show a no nonsense, thoughtful solution to the back end, the nuclear energy sector will take off in my opinion.