What if there were a way to "burn" nuclear warheads to light cities and heat homes? Well, Asea Brown Boveri Inc. in Stamford, Conn., wants to build a nuclear-power plant that could be fueled in part with plutonium from decommissioned warheads. That would be more efficient than encasing the plutonium in glass and burying it deep in the earth. "That takes electricity. This makes electricity," says Kenneth R. Rohde, product manager for nuclear systems at ABB's Combustion Engineering Inc.
ABB seems well positioned to get the business because it has the only nuclear-plant design that can handle an entire fuel core of mixed plutonium and uranium. The plant has extra control rods to slow the hot plutonium fission--a relic of a failed 1960s scheme to burn reprocessed nuclear waste. The Energy Dept. will spend about two years studying ideas for weapons disposal. If Energy likes ABB's concept, it will open the job to all bidders.