# Yucca Mountain viability for nuclear waste

1. Aug 15, 2013

### caldweab

So what do you guys think of yucca mountain as a permanent waste site?

2. Aug 15, 2013

### Greg Bernhardt

3. Aug 15, 2013

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Of course, it is! However, the government needs a viable policy: either we adopt a once-through fuel cycle approach, and the spent/used fuel is directly deposited for long-term (semi-permanent) storage, or the fuel is reprocessed and the fission products (high level waste) are vitrified/calcined and deposited permanently.

It's technical feasible, just not political palatable for some.

4. Aug 15, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Viable, if we really want to dispose of our waste instead of recycling it. But then, we can store it in such a way as to make it recoverable.

5. Aug 16, 2013

### Thermalne

I've heard some murmurs of recycling in USA isn't economically feasible either. Do you know anything related to this?

6. Aug 16, 2013

### turbo

Technical feasibility aside, is long-term storage in a central facility a political problem? (It seems so, to me). IMO, the alternative is to continue to force power plants to store waste on-site, so that the waste is diffuse (spread all over the country) and far more difficult to monitor/defend. The status quo is not ideal (by a long shot) IMO. At some point, we should be able to cost-effectively reprocess stored fuel and re-use it. This certainly won't be a viable option if the waste fuel is scattered around cooling ponds all across the country.

7. Aug 16, 2013

### nikkkom

Reprocessing indeed is currently not cost-effective: fresh Uranium is cheaper than reprocessed one.

Two points:
(1) It's cheaper to throw garbage on the street instead of disposing properly. This doesn't mean we should do the cheaper thing!
(2) The important word is *currently*. There is not that much Uranium deposits. It *will* become more expensive. When it does so, burying unreprocessed fuel will be seen as idiotic.

8. Aug 16, 2013

### caldweab

I'm about out done with our government. Why don't they leave issues like this to scientist and engineers to solve and not politicians? What have they been spending the money for the project on? We need a permanent waste facility and maybe a new fuel source as well since uranium deposits are small in nature. Maybe thorium is the answer

9. Aug 16, 2013

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
It does cost more to reprocess spent/used nuclear fuel than to fabricate it from extracted and refined ore.

The reprocessing process must be handled remotely because of the radiation. The fission products must be separated from the fuel material (uranium and transuranic elements), and then the fission products must be immobilized. It is more economical to simply send a used fuel assembly to a repository and buy a fresh fuel assembly.

10. Aug 16, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

1. Including the cost of the repository?
2. I'm unclear on if the repository was intended to be a one-way street: Once in the repository, was it intended that we could go back and get it later if we decided later to reprocess?

11. Aug 16, 2013

### the_wolfman

1) Yes. Actually the nuclear power vendors have been paying a tax to fund the repository for decades.

2) Yucca mountain is officially intended to be a one-way street.

However, simple supply and demand economics tells us that in the not too distance future it will be more cost effective to reprocess. When that day nears you'll see the nuclear industry make a push to resolve the political, technological, and proliferation issues associated with reprocessing.

12. Aug 16, 2013

### gmax137

Who is that, exactly? Who do you think is "the nuclear industry?"

13. Aug 16, 2013

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
A repository is needed whether spent/used fuel is directly disposed (within canisters) or if encapsulated fission products are diposed in the repository. The fission products would be about 5% of the fuel mass, so more fuel could be handled in the repository assuming the recovered fuel (U, Pu and TU) were stored until used.

Whether or not the fuel cycle is one way has yet to be determined.

With successive administrations and consequent changes at DOE/NRC, the ultimate decisions have not been resolved, but the can (or ball) gets kicked back and forth.

14. Aug 19, 2013

### the_wolfman

Companies that are involved in building, operating, or designing nuclear power plants. Some example are Areva, Dominion, Westinghouse, and Duke Energy

15. Aug 19, 2013

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Dominion and Duke Energy are utilities and operators of nuclear plants. AREVA and Westinghouse (Toshiba) are nuclear techology suppliers, and they do have the wherewithal to reprocess and recycle spent fuel, however, they need support from the government.

AREVA is building a MOX plant to use downblended WG-Pu as part of a DOE/NNSA program to utilize the Pu. However, it's not clear if any utility is willing to risk their reactor.

Ultimately, the US Government/DOE is responsible for the final disposition of spent/used fuel, and at the moment, utilities are stuck with having to use dry storage so that they can keep open spaces in their spent fuel pools.

16. Aug 20, 2013

### nikkkom

Sounds like insanity.
Spending billions in order to destroy material which took untold billions and decades to produce, and which will be needed in the future (e.g. for fast reactors).
Isn't it vastly cheaper to just securely store it???

17. Aug 22, 2013

### Aaronvan

Why do we even need a national central waste repository? Stored the waste on site until we develop way to economically reprocess it.

18. Aug 22, 2013

### turbo

Part of the reason is that is quite diffuse and hard to defend against theft or terrorism. Another reason, IMO, is that the waste is stored in cooling ponds in some places, dry-cask storage in others, and a mix of the two in others. IMO, it would be expedient for the government to set some standards for storage in a central site. Astronuc can probably tell us how long the power-plant operators snd power-users have been taxed for the creation of a central storage facility, only to have it denied over and over.

19. Oct 9, 2013

### EulersFormula

Good idea or not: Yucca mountain will not happen until Harry Reid dies.

20. Nov 30, 2013

### David Christo

Why not send the waste into space for disposal?

21. Nov 30, 2013

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
At about $10K+ / kg, that would be a very expensive proposition, as compared to a$10s or \$100s/kg. The DOE is supposed to take the spent fuel, and either reprocess it or deposit it in a repository indefinitely.

22. Nov 30, 2013

### middlephysics

Have there been cases of theft or terrorism? I agree that one well guarded site would be best at this point.

23. Nov 30, 2013

### middlephysics

Have there been cases of theft or terrorism? I agree that one well guarded site would be best at this point.

24. Nov 30, 2013

### David Christo

It is really a shame we spend billions killing and defending yet, we endanger our very future, and the very resources we fight and kill one another for... cause it is cheaper to do so?

wow

25. Dec 26, 2013

### middlephysics

Wait a second- it's safer to transport used nuclear fuel from all over the country (by trucks?) than to have each facility have their own storage site? Really?