There is no such thing as Nuclear Waste

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What do you guys think of this editorial? It was published about a month ago. It claims that almost all spent nuclear fuel is reprocessable and what is not can be either used for something, or safely stored until we could find some other use for it.

And the only reason why we don't reprocess our spent fuel rods is politics

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123690627522614525.html"
 
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  • #3
Morbius
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What do you guys think of this editorial? It was published about a month ago. It claims that almost all spent nuclear fuel is reprocessable and what is not can be either used for something, or safely stored until we could find some other use for it.

And the only reason why we don't reprocess our spent fuel rods is politics
Mark,

That's EXACTLY CORRECT - the ONLY reason that the USA has a nuclear waste "problem"
and doesn't reprocess / recycle our spent nuclear fuel is PURELY POLITICS.

The British, the French, the Japanese..... ALL reprocess / recycle their spent fuel. Back in 1978,
the US Congress at the behest of the anti-nukes in this country, passed the Nuclear NonProliferation
Act of 1978 - which has NOTHING to do with preventing the USA or any other country from making
nuclear weapons.

The strategy by those opposed to nuclear power was to forbid the reprocessing / recycling of spent
nuclear fuel and mandate that the ONLY disposition for spent fuel had to be a geologic repository like
Yucca Mountain. They then opposed Yucca Mountain.

Their idea is for the nuclear electric utilities that operate power reactors to eventually run out of some
place to put spent fuel. If they can't send it for reprocessing / recycling, and they don't have a Yucca
Mountain either - the only place the utility will have to store the spent fuel is their onsite spent fuel pool.

Eventually, there will be no space left in the spent fuel pool; no place to discharge a freshly spent
reactor core, so the utility will be unable to reload the reactor, and the reactor will have to shut down
which is that intent of the anti-nukes in proposing this.

Politics pure and simple.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
  • #4
Andrew Mason
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Mark,

That's EXACTLY CORRECT - the ONLY reason that the USA has a nuclear waste "problem"
and doesn't reprocess / recycle our spent nuclear fuel is PURELY POLITICS.
I am not sure it is exactly correct. The author speaks about putting the U238 back in the ground and using the U235 and PU. The U235 can only be removed by enrichment - isotope separation which is not practical.

The key, it seems to me, to reprocessing is fast reactor technology and fuel that is specially engineered for efficient reprocessing. You cannot efficiently remove the U238 nor do you want to.

AM
 
  • #5
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I like the idea of fuel reprocessing, and I like the argument of reprocessing as a way of dealing with the waste issue, but this editorial seems to me at best disingenuous. He takes the argument "fuel reprocessing reduces waste " and twists it into "there is no waste with fuel reprocessing". Right. And right after he claims this he incidentally talks about a specific byproduct of the reprocessed-nuclear process which would have to be disposed of by being "put back into the ground". Uh, you mean... like... they're... doing at Yucca Mountain?
 
  • #6
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". Right. And right after he claims this he incidentally talks about a specific byproduct of the reprocessed-nuclear process which would have to be disposed of by being "put back into the ground". Uh, you mean... like... they're... doing at Yucca Mountain?
U-238 is a million times less radioactive than what goes in Yucca Mountain. It doesn't need high-level waste storage, it can be buried just about anywhere without consequence (because it is chemically very inert, as an oxide). It is almost identical to what comes out of the ground in the first place: natural uranium is 99% U-238.

Spent fuel:

http://www.world-nuclear.org/images/info/spfuel.gif [Broken]

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf04.html

10 million GBq is 300,000 Curies - this is the activity per ton. The activity of U-238 with a 4.46 Gyr half-life is 0.3 Ci/ton (exercise for the reader). (Of course it goes up over time as the decay chain comes into equilibrium - in the long run, about a factor of 10 or so.)
 
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  • #7
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The article has glaring errors.
William Tucker said:
After being loaded in a nuclear reactor, the fuel rods sit for five years before being removed. At this point, about 12 ounces of U-235 will have been completely transformed into energy. But that's enough to power San Francisco for five years. There are no chemical transformations in the process and no carbon-dioxide emissions.
12 ounces U-235 is only about 8 gigawatt-hours - his figure is off by 4-5 orders of magnitude. And it is misleading to weigh U-235 instead of total uranium (most of which is wasted in LWRs) - that's another two OOM of exaggeration.

Even if you generously allow him to use E=mc^2 (which is baloney, because that equally well applies to chemical transformations - e.g. a kilogram of gasoline "only" converts a microgram of mass into energy), that's still an order of magnitude off.

William Tucker said:
Uranium-238 is 1% of the earth's crust. It could be put right back in the ground where it came from.
1%? It is less than 5ppm...

http://www.world-nuclear.org/education/uran.htm

William Tucker said:
Much of the remaining three-fifths has important uses as medical and industrial isotopes. Forty percent of all medical diagnostic procedures in this country now involve some form of radioactive isotope, and nuclear medicine is a $4 billion business. Unfortunately, we must import all our tracer material from Canada, because all of our isotopes have been headed for Yucca Mountain.
If he is implying that commercial use would make a significant dent in the fission product mass that needs disposal, I'd like to see those numbers.

William Tucker said:
France, which completely reprocesses its recyclable material, stores all the unused remains -- from 30 years of generating 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy -- beneath the floor of a single room at La Hague.
This is true, and there's nice pictures of it:

http://www.daylife.com/photo/08IA9lS1Rx30j [Broken]

Very clean looking.
 
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  • #8
mheslep
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  • #9
mheslep
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The article has glaring errors....
Unfortunately Ive generally found the WSJ's energy writers - Tucker and Holman Jenkins - don't do their homework, though they tend towards a pro nuclear stance.
 

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