So I know some people here have a vastly superior to me understanding of nuclear physics and nuke plants in general.
What I do know is that nuke plants operate similarly to coal fired or natural gas fired plants where the radioactive fuel generates heat which in turn heats a boiler system that then uses the steam to power turbines or other electrical generation devices and thereby generate electricity to power really big monoblocks for the Amazings.
So I keep seeing news stories about towns in Sweden and Finland saying that they want the nuke waste because they think they can store it safely in bedrock.
Well, I'm wondering what the properties of this nuke waste are. I know that there is a method that is being worked on for using thorium as a fuel and using spent uranium or plutonium-238 (both of which are the majority of radioactive waste we have sitting around) as seed material to start the reaction in thorium that would generate the power. The benefit there is that the thorium ends up with less waste overall and actually reduces the levels of waste we currently have by expending the the plutonium seeds as well.
But satellites are powered by nuke reactors in some cases. These nuke reactors use small amounts of decaying radioactive waste such as a Plutonium-238 oxide to generate power. Now, such pellets will actually start to glow from the heat of radioactive decay if under insulated cover. If they can glow like that then they can make steam, typically. 'Cause I know of no exothermic reaction that can glow and not release enough heat energy to increase the temperature of water past the boiling point.
So my question is, if this radioactive waste can generate heat from the decay process then why can't we use that in a different kind of reactor to generate heat and boil water? Or maybe even another "coolant" that has a lower boiling point? It would certainly reduce the waste problem we have and since the decay process has a 100,000 year life span, an efficient heat exchanging system could sap many decades worth of heat out of the decaying waste.
Or am I way off base here? 'Cause I know these ideas are doable because the space program uses them daily to power complex electronic equipment in space where there is no oxygen available for exothermic reactions of oxidizing fuel to generate the heat that creates steam. So if we can use it there, why not here?