How Long Can a Nuclear Battery Last?

California-based startup NDB has unveiled a revolutionary battery that uses nuclear waste and can last up to 28,000 years. This battery has the potential to be used in computer chips and nanodevices, and could provide electricity, clean water, and other important services to communities. Atomic batteries, also known as nuclear batteries, radioisotope batteries, or radioisotope generators, are devices that use the energy of the decay of a radioactive isotope to generate electricity. Westinghouse has already started with its WEC EvinciTM nuclear battery, and NDB has manufactured a self-charging battery by trapping carbon 14 (C1) nuclear waste in an artificial diamond case.

Iain MacDonald, co-founder of ANPEG, believes that this nuclear battery is a fundamental energy advance both in form and function. It can change the way nuclear energy is perceived by the public and stakeholders, and it has the ability to address adaptation to climate change and improve the standard of living in a clean system. The nuclear battery has intrinsic safety features that ensure safe shutdown and prevent overheating without operator intervention. A former Liberty ship equipped with a nuclear battery drove the construction of the 1968-75 Panama Canal.

The 139 Numec NU-5 nuclear pacemakers implanted in the 1970s are expected to never need to be replaced, an advantage over non-nuclear pacemakers which require surgical replacement of their batteries every 5 to 10 years. Nuclear batteries could also play an important role in addressing the plight of informal settlements and slums. Of course, larger nuclear plants on the order of 1000 MW are still being built in China, the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere, and five new large reactors were launched last year. An undesirable property of Cs-137 extracted from spent nuclear fuel is that it is contaminated with other caesium isotopes that further reduce power density.

Strontium-90 is easily extracted from spent nuclear fuel, but must be converted to the strontium titanate perovskite form to reduce its chemical mobility, reducing power density by half.