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THE Nuclear Waste Thread (merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: Death Knell for Nuclear Power

Unread postby Tanada » Thu 06 Aug 2009, 05:27:41

kiwichick wrote:tanada; re recycling nuclear fuel

why isn't that being done now?
or is it?


Europe is doing it, to a limited degree of partitioning, Japan is planning to do it (and actually building the facilities) to a much greater degree of partitioning. Russia does it, China and South Korea both have plans to do it but I am not sure if either of those are going forward.

The USA used to do it and a large recycling plant was built in South Carolina in the mid 1970's but President Carter believed if the USA stopped reprocessing then all the other western nations would as well, and he believes that reprocessing is a weapons proliferation risk. President Carter ordered his Administration to not issue the operating permit for the plant in South Carolina and as a result the builders lost the value of their investment expense of building the facility. As a foreign policy initiative it was a complete failure, nobody else with Nuclear power followed our lead in halting reprocessing.

Four years later President Reagen lifted the ban on Reprocessing but by then no investors were willing to risk building a plant when a change of President could cause their license to be revoked, so no commercial reprocessing plants have been built in the USA since the early 1970's.

Partitioning in this context means separating all of the chemicals that arise in the Spent Fuel, some of those like Silver are easily salable as are the three rare platinum group metals Ruthenium, Rhenium and Palladium. The Japanese are hoping that sales of those four metals will offset the cost of reprocessing, if they do then the reprocessed Uranium and Plutonium will be essentially free fuel for their power reactors in the future.
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Yucca Mountain nuclear project will not die

Unread postby Graeme » Wed 30 Jun 2010, 12:54:13

Yucca Mountain nuclear project will not die - June 30, 2010

America’s two-decade old proposal to store high level nuclear waste in a mountain in Nevada just will not die.

Geologists, local senators, and President Barack Obama have all tried to kybosh plans to build a waste storage facility inside Yucca Mountain.

But yesterday three judges from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), ruled that Obama doesn’t have the power to kill the Yucca dream. He cannot overrule the act passed by Congress in 1982 that specified the mountain as the resting place for waste from nuclear power plants across America, they said.

When the Department of Energy (DoE) tried to withdraw the 8,600-page construction authorization detailing the Yucca plans various states and other groups objected. Now the judges have denied the application to withdraw.


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Re: Yucca Mountain nuclear project will not die

Unread postby Tanada » Wed 30 Jun 2010, 17:24:58

Well thanks! It is nice to know at least one thing in energy development is actually going the way it is supposed too!
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Re: Yucca Mountain nuclear project will not die

Unread postby eclipse » Thu 05 Aug 2010, 02:54:43

1. There's hardly a storage emergency: all the world's waste put into oil drums would just about cover a football field one layer deep. What's the rush?

2. By the time they sort out Yukka we won't NEED Yukka. GenIV reactors are so hot right now. Which brings us to my poster!

Image

Download ACTUAL poster at link below, not from the low-res preview above.
http://eclipsenow.files.wordpress.com/2 ... oster2.pdf
Dr James Hansen recommends breeder reactors that convert nuclear 'waste' into 1000 years of clean energy for America, and can charge all our light vehicles and generate "Blue Crude" for heavy vehicles.
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Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Newbie Wants Info » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 18:32:26

What happens to all the nuclear waste/unspent nuclear fuel in the world if an abrupt societal collapse is brought about by peak oil, global warming, financial meltdown, etc?

Can the waste/fuel/bombs/etc be buried in time? Does every single nuclear nation in the world have storage sites in which all of the radioactive material they possess can be isolated from the biosphere for thousands of years?

What about sites like the Chernobyl containment structure? A French company is building a dome over the existing sarcophagus, but it's only intended to serve its purpose for 100 years.

If the material can't be safely isolated does it pose an existential threat to life on Earth?
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby C8 » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 20:44:34

Nuclear waste poses 2 threats actually:

1. the first risk is the actual damage caused by radiation overdose- I think the real threat here may not be so great as many believe. The wind and water dispersal will greatly weaken the doses received by most of the public and the effects are somewhat slow acting anyway for most cases (increased cancer risk in 20-40 years). Those who live very close will have to be evacuated of course.

2. the second risk, the one I believe to be far greater, is the public response to reactor failure. In our fear based media system, meltdowns will be viewed as outright death sentences for the masses. This will induce panic and cause many to flee who didn't need to- valuable property, machinery and infrastructure will be abandoned- and in a peak oil world these will be very expensive to replace. Also, the public will develop the basic belief that everything is falling apart and this may cause a general breakdown in the order so necessary to run a society effectively. My guess is that many will demand all reactors to be shut down in a panic based way at maximum speed- the resulting loss of energy will knock the economy down further. Fear has a very corrosive effect on social order.

A nuclear power plant is a psychological time bomb waiting to explode. No matter how well designed reactors get to be (and they are much better now) their is no way to factor out human error. We have been conditioned by hundreds of movies, TV shows and books to be scared to death of nuclear radiation- even in very small amounts. My chief objection to nuclear power is that it is psychologically unsafe.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby lper100km » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 20:48:08

Newbie Wants Info wrote:What happens to all the nuclear waste/unspent nuclear fuel in the world if an abrupt societal collapse is brought about by peak oil, global warming, financial meltdown, etc?

If the material can't be safely isolated does it pose an existential threat to life on Earth?

If you are postulating a world wide societal collapse, then I suspect the inevitable answer is "yes".
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Plantagenet » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 20:52:04

Newbie Wants Info wrote:What happens to all the nuclear waste/unspent nuclear fuel in the world if an abrupt societal collapse is brought about by peak oil, global warming....?


If the world would shift to nuclear power there wouldn't be a societal collapse due to peak oil----the world would stop using fossil fuel and shift to electricity generated from nukes.

Similarly, if the world shifted to nukes there wouldn't be a risk of societal collapse due to global warming-----unlike fossil fuels nuclear power doesn't emit any CO2.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby dissident » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 21:06:48

Plantagenet wrote:
Newbie Wants Info wrote:What happens to all the nuclear waste/unspent nuclear fuel in the world if an abrupt societal collapse is brought about by peak oil, global warming....?


If the world would shift to nuclear power there wouldn't be a societal collapse due to peak oil----the world would stop using fossil fuel and shift to electricity generated from nukes.

Similarly, if the world shifted to nukes there wouldn't be a risk of societal collapse due to global warming-----unlike fossil fuels nuclear power doesn't emit any CO2.
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Indeed. The Hollywood and enviro-zealot (e.g. Greenpeace) created anti-nuke hysteria is going to cost humanity dearly. A rational approach would have been to retire the 1st generation designs and transition to fast neutron, molten metal cooled reactors. These would have consumed the "waste" left behind by the obsolete and dangerous water-cooled non-breeder reactors (molten metal designs do not require pumps and any power to cool the core and are not pressurized; the vat design does not allow the coolant to leak away). The smaller amount of actual waste left would become inert after 300 years. So there would be no need to worry about finding "waste" repositories that have to remain intact for tens of thousands of years.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Newbie Wants Info » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 21:57:41

Thanks for the interesting responses.

C8 wrote:
1. the first risk is the actual damage caused by radiation overdose- I think the real threat here may not be so great as many believe. The wind and water dispersal will greatly weaken the doses received by most of the public and the effects are somewhat slow acting anyway for most cases (increased cancer risk in 20-40 years). Those who live very close will have to be evacuated of course.


But to where?

Europe and Japan, for example, have a very high population density in relation to the placement of nuclear power plants. Japan is particularly crowded, and when you consider that most of Japan consists of rugged mountainous terrain which is wholly unsuitable for farming and crowded living, one question that begs for an answer is: to where do these people go?

We're assuming here that there is widespread societal breakdown. There isn't going to be one failure, all nuclear power plants are going to be turned off, and there is no guarantee that this is going to be done safely, and we have no idea what will be done with the nuclear material which needs to be isolated from the biosphere.

One question that I really want an answer for is whether or not every nuclear nation has a place into which it can safely store it's nuclear material. Does Japan have a storage site far underground? Is it even possible to construct a stable storage site in a place like Japan, a nation that is prone to earthquakes?

Can we assume that if Japan does not have a storage site it will rely on a foreign nation to store its material? If so, which nation will that be? China? I have a hard time imagining these two countries cooperating with each other amidst all of the "chaos" you describe.

Furthermore, we are talking about complete and total societal collapse: the end of civilization. People can't just be "evacuated" forever. Food and water storage will eventually run dry, people will break free and the ability to patrol "no-go" zones will be diminished when this happens. Eventually people are going to wander aimlessly and many of these people will eventually penetrate "no-go" zones, some of which could be unsafe for thousands of years.

If a stable, reproducing population of humans manages to survive, how can they be prevented from trespassing on contaminated land? They may be illiterate and unable to speak the languages of their forefathers even if we assume that indestructable signs are erected to warn people against migrating to these areas.

If you are postulating a world wide societal collapse, then I suspect the inevitable answer is "yes".


If this is true, what should be done?

dissident wrote:
Plantagenet wrote:If the world would shift to nuclear power there wouldn't be a societal collapse due to peak oil----the world would stop using fossil fuel and shift to electricity generated from nukes.



A valid point, however, this does not mitigate the risk of economic collapse, the threat of solar storms, EMP, aging-related societal malaise, the decline in interest in science that has afflicted the youth, etc, all of which present threats to the survival of our system, and thus nuclear safety. In addition to that, as the number of these plants increases so does the risk that there will be more nuclear disasters in the future, especially if these plants are constructed in "nasty" and "irresponsible" parts of the world such as China, India or God forbid, Africa.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Plantagenet » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 22:10:14

Newbie Wants Info wrote:
Plantagenet wrote:If the world would shift to nuclear power there wouldn't be a societal collapse due to peak oil----the world would stop using fossil fuel and shift to electricity generated from nukes.


A valid point, however, this does not mitigate the risk of economic collapse, the threat of solar storms, EMP, aging-related societal decline, the decline in interest in science that has afflicted the youth, etc, all of which present threats to the survival of our system


If your main concern is societal collapse due to peak oil or greenhouse warming caused by fossil fuel use, then rest easy----there are difficult, expensive and painful choices to be made, but by switching from oil and other fossil fuels to nuclear power and other non-fossil-fuel alternative energy sources there is a good chance we can avoid societal collapse due to peak oil. [smilie=occasion14.gif]
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby C8 » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 22:11:56

The recent articles on China's defective solar panels raises the fear that they will go about selling cheap reactors to the world someday- reactors that start showing how badly they are constructed within a decade. Capitalism and the desire for money over everything else may destroy any chance we have to make a successful energy transition. The key attribute of solar, wind, nuclear is their LONG TERM payback after initial high costs. But if cheapskate builders just slap together something that is supposed to repay after 15 years- and it fails after only 10 years- then faith in alt energy will vanish.

Today I have come to the conclusion that capitalism will prevent any successful energy transition. This is a very unexpected and hard pill to swallow. Greed condemns us to short term profits and long term disaster since our new energy sources require extreme durability and builders will cheat on this. It is 11pm here in Ohio, I am going to go to bed now- today has not ended well for me. I will be better (and wiser) tomorrow.

Bummer day.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Newbie Wants Info » Sun 02 Jun 2013, 22:28:45

Plantagenet wrote:If your main concern is societal collapse due to peak oil or greenhouse warming caused by fossil fuel use, then rest easy----there are difficult, expensive and painful choices to be made, but by switching from oil and other fossil fuels to nuclear power and other non-fossil-fuel alternative energy sources there is a good chance we can avoid societal collapse due to peak oil. [smilie=occasion14.gif]


Societal collapse from peak oil and greenhouse warming are concerns of mine, but they are not my only concerns. There is the neverending risk of economic collapse, aging-related societal malaise, geomagnetic storms, EMPs, and with the advancement of new types of technology all sorts of theoreitcal risks to civilization and our species which may manifest themselves in the future. And there is also the new and understudied phenomenon of significant decline of interest in science which has afflicted the youth of the 21st century.

To be fair, I don't think that civilization will collapse tomorrow. But the very real threat of decline and the consequences of humanity's persistant inaction on this issue (consequences such as the premature extinction of many animal species) leads me to believe that more nuclear power plants are definitely a bad idea.

C8 wrote:The recent articles on China's defective solar panels raises the fear that they will go about selling cheap reactors to the world someday- reactors that start showing how badly they are constructed within a decade. Capitalism and the desire for money over everything else may destroy any chance we have to make a successful energy transition. The key attribute of solar, wind, nuclear is their LONG TERM payback after initial high costs. But if cheapskate builders just slap together something that is supposed to repay after 15 years- and it fails after only 10 years- then faith in alt energy will vanish.

Today I have come to the conclusion that capitalism will prevent any successful energy transition. This is a very unexpected and hard pill to swallow. Greed condemns us to short term profits and long term disaster since our new energy sources require extreme durability and builders will cheat on this. It is 11pm here in Ohio, I am going to go to bed now- today has not ended well for me. I will be better (and wiser) tomorrow.


Another interesting and valid point.

I agree, the risk of Chinese-constructed nuclear reactors is great. I don't think that blaming capitalism or "greed" is a good idea, though. To me, these buzzwords only distract people from the real issues and their potential solutions. So as long as everyone's attention is diverted towards non-issues like "gay rights," "women's rights," "greed," "Kony," "Arab Spring," "capitalism," "2nd Amendment," "taxes," "healthcare" and so forth, nothing will be done to address truly urgent matters like global warming, nuclear waste, water depletion, renewable energy, etc.

Because the fact is that there are no "anti-greed" people who are willing to do anything about nuclear power. Nuclear power is people power, and anti-Capitalists have been some of the biggest proponents of nuclear power the world has ever known. Action in defense of the environment is politicaly unpalatable because the public's thirst for cheap energy trumps human responsibility.

If anything I would say that newfound national pride is the biggest proponent of nuclear energy and the perpetuation of the storage issue. The vast majority of anti-capitalists seem to view the "busting" of a non-Western nation's "pride" and "cultural imperialism" as two of the most evil sins one could possibly commit.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby ralfy » Mon 03 Jun 2013, 00:24:15

Newbie Wants Info wrote:
Another interesting and valid point.

I agree, the risk of Chinese-constructed nuclear reactors is great. I don't think that blaming capitalism or "greed" is a good idea, though. To me, these buzzwords only distract people from the real issues and their potential solutions. So as long as everyone's attention is diverted towards non-issues like "gay rights," "women's rights," "greed," "Kony," "Arab Spring," "capitalism," "2nd Amendment," "taxes," "healthcare" and so forth, nothing will be done to address truly urgent matters like global warming, nuclear waste, water depletion, renewable energy, etc.

Because the fact is that there are no "anti-greed" people who are willing to do anything about nuclear power. Nuclear power is people power, and anti-Capitalists have been some of the biggest proponents of nuclear power the world has ever known. Action in defense of the environment is politicaly unpalatable because the public's thirst for cheap energy trumps human responsibility.

If anything I would say that newfound national pride is the biggest proponent of nuclear energy and the perpetuation of the storage issue. The vast majority of anti-capitalists seem to view the "busting" of a non-Western nation's "pride" and "cultural imperialism" as two of the most evil sins one could possibly commit.


The issue isn't as much "greed" as the need for increasing profits or returns on investment built upon increasing production and consumption of resources, all aspects of free market global capitalism, to meet increasing demand "because [of] the public's thirst for cheap energy," which "trumps human responsibility."

It's also the same thirst and not some "newfound national pride" that will promote various sources of energy to meet demand as conventional oil production is unable to catch up.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Newbie Wants Info » Mon 03 Jun 2013, 01:09:13

From where I'm sitting right now, gobal capitalism and colonialism appear to be the only solutions to the pollution problem.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 03 Jun 2013, 07:01:36

Newbie Wants Info wrote:What happens to all the nuclear waste/unspent nuclear fuel in the world if an abrupt societal collapse is brought about by peak oil, global warming, financial meltdown, etc?

Can the waste/fuel/bombs/etc be buried in time? Does every single nuclear nation in the world have storage sites in which all of the radioactive material they possess can be isolated from the biosphere for thousands of years?

What about sites like the Chernobyl containment structure? A French company is building a dome over the existing sarcophagus, but it's only intended to serve its purpose for 100 years.

If the material can't be safely isolated does it pose an existential threat to life on Earth?


At most places everywhere on Earth nuclear fuel is in the form of ceramic pellets. The ones in spent fuel are dangerous to get too close too because they emit high energy particles plus gamma and x ray's.

The good news is, ceramics are tough stuff. Put a china dish out in the weather and it will take thousands of years to break down. Almost all nuclear fuel is the same way, and the dangerous radiation is gone much sooner than the Hollywood scare stories would lead you to believe.

About the only time you can easily break the stuff up into very small pieces is when it is very hot and you cold shock it with cooling. That is what happened at Chernobyl that makes the sarcophagus prudent. The carbon graphite core caught fire and lots of water was used to finally quench it, along with sand and other materials. When people talk about a core meltdown what they are usually referring too is the metal tubes that hold the ceramic fuel in place melting, not the fuel pellets themselves.

There is no existential threat, there is a Hollywood threat. Look at any coal ash pile in the USA, generally the ash is dumped into a big pond like structure where it is left essentially forever. That ash contains all sorts of poisons from Arsenic and Mercury up through Thorium and Uranium. There are literally thousands of ash piles in North America, but nothing effective is being done to guard them now or for thousands of years into the future. The Mercury and Arsenic are poison forever, the dangerous radiation in nuclear fuel is only for about 300 years. Which one should you spend your time worrying about?
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby ralfy » Mon 03 Jun 2013, 07:17:25

Newbie Wants Info wrote:From where I'm sitting right now, gobal capitalism and colonialism appear to be the only solutions to the pollution problem.


Actually, they are the cause of "the pollution problem."
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Mon 03 Jun 2013, 07:23:11

Tanada - Now you did it: blew your chance at a consulting gig on the next zombie movie. I understand the plot involves injecting those pellets into the dead and thus giving them a new lease on life, so to speak. But only for about 300 years.

ralfy - Hey! I resemble that remark! Uhh...I meant resent.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Newbie Wants Info » Mon 03 Jun 2013, 11:46:48

Tanada: Thanks for the interesting post.

Can you show me a source suggesting that all radioactive material is non-dangerous after 300 years? Would the massive amount of radioactive material left behind (i.e. from multiple plants, manufacturing facilities, bombs, etc) really present no threat after 300 years?

Does it only present a threat if it is left alone, kept at a distance from, and not placed in contact with other materials?

Human beings are curious creatures, they like to pick stuff up, put it in their mouths, throw it, etc. Just a couple of years ago an Indian fellow took a piece of cobalt from a nuclear plant and kept it in his wallet. Died a few weeks later. If a future caveman picks up a couple of pieces of radioactive material and bangs it together with his hands or throws it on to an opposing pile of radiation could this generate intense radioactivity in material that would otherwise be "safe" if left alone?

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my concerns.
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Re: Nuclear waste after collapse scenario

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 03 Jun 2013, 12:14:53

Newbie Wants Info wrote:Tanada: Thanks for the interesting post.

Can you show me a source suggesting that all radioactive material is non-dangerous after 300 years? Would the massive amount of radioactive material left behind (i.e. from multiple plants, manufacturing facilities, bombs, etc) really present no threat after 300 years?

Does it only present a threat if it is left alone, kept at a distance from, and not placed in contact with other materials?

Human beings are curious creatures, they like to pick stuff up, put it in their mouths, throw it, etc. Just a couple of years ago an Indian fellow took a piece of cobalt from a nuclear plant and kept it in his wallet. Died a few weeks later. If a future caveman picks up a couple of pieces of radioactive material and bangs it together with his hands or throws it on to an opposing pile of radiation could this generate intense radioactivity in material that would otherwise be "safe" if left alone?

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my concerns.


Spent nuclear fuel, i.e. the stuff in cooling ponds and dry cask storage, decays down to near background levels in 300 years. That means the fuel is no more dangerous to a person handling it than the ore that was dug out of the ground and made into the fuel to start with. I personally wouldn't want to build my house out of the stuff, but it is unlikely any of your descendents would do so either. They could pick it up, throw it at other people whatever. The only mildly dangerous thing to do would be to inhale dust scrapped off the fuel pellets, that would give the person breathing it a good chance of developing lung cancer 20-40 years later. If they are an adult when it happens and you are in Mad Max scenario's finding enough food to live another 20-40 years will be a much greater concern.

People always forget radioactive nuclei are dangerous because they radiate, once they have given up that energy they are no longer the same kind of nucleus they were before they radiated. When half of a given substance has been through this decay process we say it has half the life it used to have. It is half as active as it used to be. The more radioactive something is the shorter the half life and the sooner it becomes inert. After ten half lives the material is effectively inert, 50%, 25%, 12.5%, 6.25%, 3.125%... after 5 half lives the material only has 3.125% of the radiation it had when it was 'fresh'. After 10 half lives a radioactive material only has 0.0976% of the activity it started with. Short half life materials are dangerous, but not for very long. Long half lived materials are dangerous because they are poisons like Arsenic or Lead, not because they are radioactive. Spent nuclear fuel is a mixture of lots of different radioactive isotopes, but the vast majority of them have short or very short half lives. After just a few years the fuel has cooled off enough it can be removed from the pool storage and placed in a dry cask storage container. After 300 years it is not even warm to the touch.
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