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News Nuclear Reprocessing and the NPT

  1. Jun 14, 2010 #1
    [split from a thread in the nuclear engineering forum]
    That would be a more compelling argument if we didn't already have enough warheads and boomers to turn the world into a smoking ceramic parking lot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 15, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2010 #2
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    Thank you for the information Astronuc, that was a very informative link.

    While that may be true about the United-States and Russia, it does not apply to most other countries. If the US wants to tell other countries not to reprocess for civil purposed because they could divert some to military purposes the US can't in good faith reprocess. What if for example, Canada wanted to reprocess it's nuclear waste? Now what about Iran?

    Additionally, there is no apparent need to begin reprocessing immediately. Waste storage is not a significant technical problem, and reprocessing is not economic with today's uranium prices. Eventually people will probably use our 'waste' in some reprocessed form but there is no case for it right now.
     
  4. Jun 14, 2010 #3
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    I recognize the politics, but I also recognize that the US simply doesn't need more (of the same kind) of bombs. This is imagery, not reality, which I realize is the point of diplomacy, but it's disingenuous. Only the USA and Russia have both the numbers, and the means of deployment to cause a nuclear holocaust, and that is unlikely to change. Should that REALLY prevent us from finding economical means to recover or produce fuel for civilian uses? We have the NIF for testing theories, now lets get cracking on the energy side. I see no problem with blocking Iran on an "unfair" basis; life isn't fair.
     
  5. Jun 14, 2010 #4
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    Or, you know, open your own facilities to the same international oversight.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  6. Jun 15, 2010 #5

    russ_watters

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    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    That doesn't logically follow. The US already has nuclear weapons and will continue to have them whether we get civilian reprocessing or not. For a country that does not have nuclear weapons, reprocessing will help enable it.

    There is no issue of fairness here: The situations are unequal because the situations are unequal.
    While this may be true if you eliminate the political issues, the political issues make it untrue. Currently, the US government is violating agreements with power companies while having spent billions on a repository it now intends not to use. I'm for fixing which-ever of these two political issues is easier.
     
  7. Jun 15, 2010 #6
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    It is interesting that many of you feel that the US should be allowed to tell other countries what they should be allowed to do for civilian purposes. As a Canadian, this seems utterly ridiculous.

    As a non-nuclear power, I think it is ridiculous that you can try to tell Canada, or any other country not to peruse economic technologies (with fair international oversight), while the US is pursuing the exact same gains. It is at minimum a demonstration of good-faith on the part of the US to place the same economic restrictions on themselves they expect others to endure. Having nuclear weapons should not offer economic advantages to those countries that posses them.

    In a slightly similar issue, the US has been leading by example with regards to conversion of HEU to LEU in civilian reactors. The US has also been encouring the operators of other HEU reactors to convert. This gives the US some credibility on the issue, otherwise you just look like a bully to your friends.

    Personally, I support reprocessing spent fuel, provided countries both adhere to appropriate international oversight and are NPT signatories. This is especially true for reprocessing technologies which do not produce pure plutonium or U233. If you don't agree why?
     
  8. Jun 15, 2010 #7
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    It is not ridiculous, it is unfair, just like life and geopolitics. As a means of control it is beats most historical attempts. Nations are not interested in what is fair or right, but what is advantageous. Politics aside, this doesn't change Russ' point, which is that we have so many nukes, and nukes ready to launch, that the rest is pointless. We don't need FBRs to make a new weapon, and again, the NIF is placing us in a separate category from nations that need to detonate to test.

    Given those technical and political realities, it seems unfortunate that this would be a reason to ignore potentially useful technologies for civilian use. We violate agreements when we can get away with it, and it is useful, just as other nations do. Remember also that the inequality is a result of being the first to make and deploy nuclear arms, and a costly decades long cold war with the other massive nuclear entity, the former USSR. Why should we stand on principle when defending national interests?

    We are not "allowed", it's called having massive military, technological and economic power. It will eventually change, but until then the credibility comes in the form of political rhetoric, the barrel of a "gun", and economic strings. This is the world.
     
  9. Jun 15, 2010 #8
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    "Why should we stand on principle?" I can't argue with that type of logic. That is the same logic that got the US warrentless wiretaps, Gauntness Bay, indefinite detention and the Patriot Act.

    Right, we should throw out the concepts of fairness, cooperation and coordination within the international community. You're aboslutely right the US could get away with such hypocrisy, you must be so very proud.

    I wonder how you'll feel when China starts leveraging the trillions of dollars of economic strings at it's disposal. Then will you think that cooperation and coordination are such a bad thing?

    I'm fully in favor of reprocessing, provided it is done safely and in an environmentally responsible manner, for any country that does it under international safeguards. Any countries caught violating safeguards can be dealt with by the international community as the international community sees fit. What I am against is rewarding countries for obtaining atomic weapons, doing so only strengths the desire of other countries developing them.

    I feel that reprocessing should be dealt with similarly to uranium enrichment in the NPT.
     
  10. Jun 15, 2010 #9
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    I'm not endorsing this view, I'm just describing the reality of geopolitics to you, in the light of historical means of control and dominance.
     
  11. Jun 15, 2010 #10

    russ_watters

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    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    It's neither rediculous nor unfair: it is a treaty! An agreement. Countries like Iran have agreed to not pursue nuclear weapons and be open about their nuclear programs in exchange for assistance in developing nuclear power. What could be unfair or rediculous about that? More to the point, Iran voluntarily signed the treaty. If they thought it unfair or rediculous, they wouldn't have signed.
    Nonsense. As a developer and signatory of many treaties with civilian economic implications, Canada has a long and proud history of telling other countries what they are allowed to do. That's a normal part of geopolitics.
    You're not understanding what the NPT does. The NPT makes it economically advantageous not to develop nuclear weapons because in return for not developing nuclear weapons, such countries are provided technological assistance. There are no "economic restirctions" on any country who is faithfully fulfilling their obligations under the NPT. Being a nuclear weapons power does not confer an economic advantage.

    Also, I think you may misunderstand Canada's status or maybe your wording was just tough to follow: Canada does have nuclear power.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  12. Jun 15, 2010 #11

    russ_watters

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  13. Jun 15, 2010 #12
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    Of course it's unfair, but I don't mean that pejoratively. Fair is a simple concept, but it has no place in treaties, politics, or international relations. Is it fair you are one of the people on earth with a computer and leisure time? No, but it's not wrong either, it simply is. My point was that getting into that entire realm with geopolitics is as useful as a beautiful sunset in a world of blind people.

    Back to the topic at hand, we NPT, as you pointed out is advantageous for the USA economy, and frankly that means it's good for many other economies too. That being said, unless some disaster occurs with current storage, no senator is going to have the sack to allow a real central storage for waste in their state. The only way to battle that is to educate people as to the real risks and rewards of these technologies versus existing sources of non-portable energy. If voters "get it" there is a greater chance that congress will not wet itself every time the issue emerges.

    Given this country's excellent history with nuclear energy, I find the reticence to engage in more of it baffling.
     
  14. Jun 16, 2010 #13
    Except for India of course. They never signed the treaty, but built the bomb anyway, yet we decided to give them that tech assistance.

    In western Europe and Russia nuclear reprocessing is commonplace.
     
  15. Jun 16, 2010 #14
    Russia, who like us has enough aimed warheads to end human life, and western Europe, such as France, with a track record of not giving a crap where nukes are concerned? Yeah, that's not really helpful. For India, again, it is a strategic partnership in opposition to Pakistan and China.
     
  16. Jun 16, 2010 #15
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    I should start by clarifying, I am Canadian and I am aware that Canada has civil nuclear power. I'm a nuclear engineering in training in Canda (GO CANDU!). By nuclear power in the previous context I mean the country as a nuclear weapons power.

    To the best of my (limited knowledge) under the NPT states are allowed to reprocess spent fuel, including producing plutonium, for peaceful uses provided proper international oversight is in place. IE, Any NPT signatory, should be allowed to operate a spent fuel recycling program provided the meet oversight conditions.

    The US policy of discouraging spent fuel recovery exist outside the NPT. The current policy, has been "We don't want you to do it, so we wont either". Which is in my opinion a perfectly respectable position. The suggestion of several people on this forum however is that this policy should be changed to "Do as we say, not as we do" is where I have a problem.

    The justification for this has been, "We can get away with being bullies", and "We have so many nukes, it isn't like we'd want more anyways". This second argument is what I'm attacking when I say that I don't think that having a lot of nuclear weapons should convey an economic benefit.

    I do not contest that the US has far greater political clout, military power, and economic strings than much smaller nations including Canada. If however, the US decides it wants to push the issue, I have to ask, how are we 'friends'?
     
  17. Jun 16, 2010 #16

    mheslep

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    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    Maybe there were comments to this effect in the other forum before the split, but what 'several' people? Aside from nismaratwork's 'unfair'-is-ok-because-we're-strong posts I've seen no such comments in this thread.
     
  18. Jun 16, 2010 #17

    mheslep

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    Hopefully I'll add some focus to the topic by pointing out that the main problem associated with proliferation issues in reprocessing is that it means stockpiles of Plutonium will accumulate - unless or until they're burned in reactors as fuel. Steal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_mass#Critical_mass_of_a_bare_sphere" and an Iran like state could likely quickly make an implosion weapon. Increasing the stockpile seams to me it unavoidably increases the current risk (whatever that risk may be, and it may be small) that some can be mishandled.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  19. Jun 16, 2010 #18
    Excellent, you've just lined up my nightmare for tonight! Grrrr. :wink:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  20. Jun 16, 2010 #19
    Re: What is environmental impact for mining, processing nuclear fuel?

    I didn't say it was ok, or not ok, just that it's the norm.
     
  21. Jun 16, 2010 #20
    So just mandate it that all Pu239 stockpiles must be contaminated with 18% or greater by weight of Pu240. That would make it useless in a bomb with out very expensive and difficult isotopic separation. Problem solved.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
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