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Would this be a viable waste storage method?

  1. Jan 29, 2006 #1
    Would this be a viable waste "storage" method?


    It sounds to good to be true so I guess it is just that. :confused:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2006 #2


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    Dropping encapsulated nuclear waste into a trench/subduction zone has been one of the options. One problem is the predictability and control of a natural process, i.e. being sure the waste goes where one wants it to go.

    The DOE program for the disposition of spent nuclear fuel is a spectacular disaster. :rolleyes: :grumpy: :mad:
  4. Jan 30, 2006 #3


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    Could you elaborate...?
  5. Jan 30, 2006 #4


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    I am thinking in terms of the $billions spent and very little to show for it.

    At the moment the future use of Yucca mountain is questionable. It is a political/policy matter.

    Utilities are using their limited wet storage and having to buy additional dry storage capacity, which was not in the original plan (and capital outlay) of the plants.

    Reprocessing is back on the table, again, but the cost has not been determined, and we have to relearn the technology, and redevelop the infrastructure if we are to do it 'safely' - and 'safely' is the key.

    Technically, we have solutions. It's just that we have a huge bureaucracy wasting $billions. :grumpy:

    My company is involved in various aspects of nuclear fuel, it's performance and final disposition, as well as the infrastructure (systems and structures) involved in the use of nuclear energy.
  6. Feb 1, 2006 #5
    Is any research on this going on or is it a pretty much dead topic? I have never heard it mentioned before I saw that webpage:confused:

    btw does anyone know a good book that covers most aspects of storing nuclear waste. I wouldnt mind at all if its very technical.
  7. Feb 1, 2006 #6


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    At the moment, no country is seriously considering dropping encapsulated nuclear waste or spent nuclear fuel into an ocean trench (or subduction zone). Waste and spent nuclear fuel is buried on land or retained in storage (dry and wet) at the moment. In France and UK, there are reprocessing programs in which Pu and unused U are recovered and recycled. That is an option now being reconsidered in the US.

    I'll see if any of my texts cover waste and spent fuel. I believe I have one text on the 'Evironmental Aspects of Nuclear Energy'.
  8. Feb 1, 2006 #7


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    Under numerous laws passed by Congress, including the Nuclear Waste Policy Acts of 1982 and 1987,
    the nuclear industry is taxed a fee per reactor to go into paying for a waste disposal site.
    Last I looked, this fund had something like $17 Billion in it.

    The U.S. Government was supposed to have the waste repository ready by 1998.
    The Government missed that mark, and the nuclear industry took the Government to
    court to force it to at least take possession of the fuel, as it should have in 1998.

    The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The SC ruled against the nuclear
    industry and did not force the Government to take possession. The nuclear industry
    has to make other provisions for the temporary storage of the waste - but the US
    Government will be responsible to reimburse the nuclear industry because the US
    Government failed to meet its commitments. See:

    http://www.westgov.org/wieb/radioact/litistat.htm [Broken]

    So the sooner the repository is completed, the less money the Government will have
    to pay for defaulting on the agreement. As the above article states, one of the courts
    ruled in favor of Yankee Atomic. As the article states, the precedent set opens the
    Government up to liablity that is "tremendous".

    When the EPA wrote standards and requirements for the repository; they enumerated
    requirements for how the repository will have to behave for a period of 10,000 years.
    Recently, the Courts held that the EPA was remiss in limiting the requirements to a
    term of 10,000 years. I believe the Courts want to require a term of 250,000 years.

    As for the science, here's a short article, courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:


    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  9. Feb 1, 2006 #8
    US$17 billion! If the reprocessing option is allowed, will it be used for reprocessing or will they continue to search for a repository for other waste?
  10. Feb 1, 2006 #9


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    The $17 billion is about what's left. They've spend probably 2 or 3 times that amount. :rolleyes: :mad:

    If reprocessing becomes part of the fuel cycle, the by-products, e.g. Cs, Sr, and all the other other fission products will still need to be stored somewhere. But recycling the U and Pu will significantly reduce the waste volume. On the other hand, the cost of manufacturing fuel using recycled U and Pu is higher because all the manufacturing and inspection is done remotely because of the radiation.

    Also, remember, the pressure vessels are being irradiated by neutrons, and ultimately, the PV will need to be buried somewhere.
  11. Feb 2, 2006 #10
    Well, Astronuc, you're the expert, so we have to take your word for it. So what disposal method do you endorse? If not the subductive waste disposal method, then what else? Yucca mountain doesn't seem a promising long term solution.
  12. Feb 2, 2006 #11


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    I am an expert in my area, primarily nuclear fuel and materials, and a few others.

    I'd have to do more homework to make a definitive statement. I have studied nuclear waste, and I would probably go with reprocessing and vitrification (Synroc process), with final disposition in a geologically stable formation - basalt or granite.

    However, that's what I would do. Being one person, I can't control the process. For the system to work, as it should, it requires the dedication and integrity of a lot of people. There can be no short cuts. The safe and long-term disposition of radioactive material is very serious business! I can't overstate that. That's one of the reasons I tend to be very serious in my nature - I take my work very seriously!
  13. Feb 2, 2006 #12
    So you're leaning away from subductive disposal since subduction zones are geologically active. But it seems to me that digging into hard rock formations (granite or basalt) would be expensive and impermanent if Yucca Mountain is to be the model--even if Yucca Mountain itself is not chosen. Stuff buried at the bottom of a 7-mile deep trench would be a lot harder to recover than stuff inside of a granite tunnel.
  14. Feb 2, 2006 #13


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    Not necessarily. I'd have to do the research (homework). On the other hand, I wouldn't particularly like to dump containers in some open trench, even if it is 7 miles deep.

    I suppose one could bore into a subduction zone, insert container of vitrified waste material, and let the geophysical processes entomb it. On the other hand, do we know with certainty to where the waste will eventually travel?
  15. Feb 3, 2006 #14
    Thanks for the links Morbius and astro if you find that text I would love to read it :)
  16. Feb 3, 2006 #15


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    I went looking for my text, but didn't find it (but IIRC, it's G. G. Eichholz, Environmental Aspects of Nuclear Power, Ann Arbor Sci. Publ., 1976. ).

    Meanwhile, here are some interesting sites:

    Nuclear Waste Management Organization (Canada) - http://www.nwmo.ca/default.aspx?DN=283,282,199,20,1,Documents

    Course outline - http://www.engr.wisc.edu/ep/neep/courses/neep571.html [Broken]

    IAEA has some free downloadable Tecdocs (http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/ResultsPage.asp), like this one -
    Environmental aspects based on operational performance of nuclear fuel fabrication facilities - http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/te_1306_web.pdf

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  17. Feb 3, 2006 #16
    The Current Science paper I cited argued that even if a container were breached, the stuff would be subducted faster than it could diffuse upwards. Also, since the radioactive elements in nuclear waste tend to be relatively heavy elements, they will tend to sink anyway. As for drilling through a water column 7 miles deep, it's doable, but expensive. Just dumping the stuff in the mud would be a lot easier and cheaper. We have got to find a permanent solution--but this solution has to be cost-effective. Otherwise, what is the point of nuclear power?

    In any case, the Japanese deep-sea drilling project should shed some light on the feasability of the subductive waste disposal method.

    Speaking of subductive waste disposal, I once attended a lecture by an ecologist who proposed that we could cure the greenhouse effect by dumping massive amounts of biomass into subduction zone trenches. So, instead of dumping nuclear waste down there, we could eliminate nuclear, and just dump organic biomass instead, and still not increase atmospheric CO2.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2006
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