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THE Nuclear Waste Thread (merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Unread postby Devil » Thu 12 May 2005, 04:52:36

Vitrification is a standard technique for all high level waste and some medium level. Small quantities of the waste are included in a melt of ordinary borosilicate (Pyrex) glass which is carefully cast with a very long annealing time into sealed titanium cylinders. These are placed, in turn, in 5 cm thick 18/8/2/1 stainless steel drums with a screw lid, which, after closing, are argon welded shut. These drums are stored for 40 years above ground to cool down and they are checked weekly for any leaks or any form of damage or excess temperature. Only then, the drums are shipped for definitive storage in lead-lined steel drums. Details may vary from country to country, but that's the general way it's done.

Any leak would mean that the steel, lead, stainless steel, titanium and glass would all have to be destroyed.
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Unread postby PhilBiker » Thu 12 May 2005, 06:47:23

I agree that recycling is what is needed first and foremost.
Devil wrote:Firstly, reduce the quantity of waste by recycling the fuel. US reactors use the stuff once and are left with high level waste in large quantities. Many European and Japanese reactors recycle 96% of the fuel and the remaining 4% is medium level waste.
What do you think of the major spill at the British facility earlier this week?
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Unread postby gt1370a » Thu 12 May 2005, 08:42:01

The whole point to a repository like Yucca Mountain is that it is RETRIEVABLE so that the fuel can be reprocessed once that becomes economical.

Did you know that all of the spent fuel assemblies from every power reactor in the US, if you stacked them up side-by-side, would take up about 1 football field? Imagine that! 20% of this country's power for 40+ years, and that small amount of waste... Kind of makes you think this "waste disposal problem" is blown out of proportion.
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Unread postby Dezakin » Thu 12 May 2005, 14:07:25

I still dont understand why people want to put it somewhere designed to outlast the pyramids in the first place.

Technology doesnt stand still. Just ship the stuff out to the middle of the desert in giant concrete canisters in a big cheap warehouse and we'll revisit the issue in fifty years. They'll probably still be sittin pretty then, and we'll revisit the issue again fifty later. Eventually we'll have a use for the spent fuel thats cost effective.

All this 'place it in stable geological strata' nonsense is a waste of time and money, not to mention potentially throwing away valuable resources. Spent fuel isn't an evil ring that needs to be destroyed in the fires of mount doom. We just need to not store liquid waste in thin leaky metal drums under a couple feet of topsoil near major water supplies.
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Unread postby PhilBiker » Fri 13 May 2005, 07:25:29

gt1370a wrote:The whole point to a repository like Yucca Mountain is that it is RETRIEVABLE so that the fuel can be reprocessed once that becomes economical.

Did you know that all of the spent fuel assemblies from every power reactor in the US, if you stacked them up side-by-side, would take up about 1 football field? Imagine that! 20% of this country's power for 40+ years, and that small amount of waste... Kind of makes you think this "waste disposal problem" is blown out of proportion.
Wow what a great post. Got a link to support that so I can steal it in the future?
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Unread postby Dezakin » Fri 13 May 2005, 18:15:05

So you're completely not believing in this little Peak Oil problem we've been discussing on this board for so long, either that, or you're not understanding it.


I certainly believe oil production will peak sometime in the next 50 years... perhaps as early as next year, perhaps not for decades.

But as for actual energy, we have enormous amounts of it. We have at least tens of thousands of years of nuclear fuel, and the sun itself dumps many terawats over the earths surface.

It isn't as cheap as oil for transportation, but its not prohibitively expensive either. Nuclear power is certainly cost competitive with coal and oil for electricity generation.

I've adressed this before and backed up my claims.

But you're a dumbass, so that's not surprising!


Cheecky unrefined punctuation doesn't make your argument any more sound. Why do you continue to debase yourself? Do you have some personal hatred for me merely because I disagree?
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Unread postby bobcousins » Fri 13 May 2005, 19:17:34

Dezakin wrote:But as for actual energy, we have enormous amounts of it. We have at least tens of thousands of years of nuclear fuel,


I recently read that if we convert all energy use to nuclear, it would last 3 years. It so hard knowing who to believe!

It doesn't seem unreasonable to think that doom is avoidable. If GWB can galvanise his nation to fight a threat that doesn't really exist, surely it would be easier to mobilise against a threat that does exist. During the last world war we had rationing and large amounts of planned economy, people went along with it because they saw the need.

Invariably, people who predict the future based on past trends get it wrong. James Burke did a very good series called Connections where he traced how seemingly minor unrelated events combine to produce totally unpredictable outcomes.

100 years ago we were using horses to get around, now we all use cars. The impact of that has changed society radically. In another 100 years, we may be back to using horses, or who knows what. Significant change is possible in either direction, and stating future events with certainty is at the least foolish.

The only thing I have been convinced about since coming here is that oil production will peak soon. No-one has provided sufficient proof that anything else will happen.
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Unread postby arocoun » Fri 13 May 2005, 19:25:25

He was referring, I believe, to energy for nuclear fusion. Of course, he's gambling his life on the probability that nuclear fusion will be usable by the time it's necessary. To tell the truth, I really couldn't care less if he loses that bet.
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Unread postby Dezakin » Sat 14 May 2005, 03:24:51

He was referring, I believe, to energy for nuclear fusion. Of course, he's gambling his life on the probability that nuclear fusion will be usable by the time it's necessary. To tell the truth, I really couldn't care less if he loses that bet.


I most certainly was not. I was referring to uranim and thorium reserves in the earths crust.

I've illustrated here several times the vast amount recoverable for producing electricity. The 50 years of uranium supply left refers only to current mines of high grate uranium ore.
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Unread postby Wildwell » Sat 14 May 2005, 10:57:51

Renewable energy is nearly 10% world wide, and 70% plus in some countries. Can the market solve the problem? Probably not. It doesn’t consider limitations in resources (just substitution), it’s short term and doesn’t internalise certain costs. Whatever happens it's got be a combination of Government interference (not very popular anywhere, but especially the US) and market developments.

There are also unknown elements caused by public opinion. 70% of UK wind farms have been rejected, because of NIMBYs. The public fear of Nuclear power – could chernobyl become one of the most significant events in mankind’s history?

Here's a European perspective, the nearest thing I’ve seen to a plan B on line, it makes a lot of assumptions though.


# General assumptions

* the population of EU 15 will grow from 140 million in 1998 to 164 million people in 2050
* by 2050 the standard of living in EU 15 will all be at the current Northern Europe level industrial, commercial and living areas will be developed to minimise transportation demand
* 10% of all land area will be set aside for nature preservation
* consumption patterns will change to reduce meat imports and to allow for food production with only 20% of the present input of fertilisers

# Assumptions concerning energy demand

* material use by industry will be reduced by a factor of 4 thanks to careful product design.
* recycling rates will be doubled. energy consumption in industry will be reduced accordingly.
* floor space will increase to 42 m2 per capita household size will decrease to 2.24 persons per household.
* heating demand for buildings in Northern and Central Europe will be reduced from 150 kWh/m2*a to 30-40 kWh/m2*a.
* energy efficiency of household appliances will be increased by 60-85% .
* the tertiary (service) sector will grow by 50% by 2050.
* the transport of goods will decrease by 60% since industry will be using less materials. short and medium distance flights will be abandoned in favour of rail transport.
* 50% of all journeys will be by public transport. people will travel shorter distances due to changed spatial patterns.
* passenger cars will use only two litres of fuel per 100km and trucks will use only 2/3 of their present diesel consumption.
* the overall energy demand per capita will be reduced from 4500 W/cap in 1990 to 1700 W/cap in 2050.

# Assumptions concerning energy supply

* the renewable energy sources considered in the scenario were biomass, solar radiation, wind energy, and hydropower. The share of each was based on expert judgement.
* 500 W/cap will be produced by biomass.
* PV modules will be installed on 30% of the suitable roof area supplying 150 W/cap.
* solar thermal collectors will be installed on 50% of the suitable roof area supplying 330 W/cap.
* wind energy will contribute 50 W/cap from on-shore and 160 W/cap from off-shore installations.
* solar power plants will contribute 180 W/cap. no large hydropower plants will be added.
* the use of small hydropower sites will be increased from 20-25% today to 90% in 2050 with a total contribution of hydropower of 140 W/cap.
* heat pumps will utilise environmental heat to supply 90 W/cap.
* no more than 80W/head, 5% of the total energy demand, will be supplied by fossil fuels
* no energy will be imported by the EU15

http://www.feasta.org/documents/wells/c ... meyer.html
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Unread postby Ludi » Sat 14 May 2005, 11:23:10

Wildwell wrote:Renewable energy is nearly 10% world wide,


I do not consider nuclear and hydroelectric "renewable." Nuclear is based on a non-renewable resource and most hydroelectric sites are taken. Also large dams are harmful to the hydrologic cycle, hence not sustainable.

Please give a citation for your 10% figure.

http://encarta.msn.com/media_461518118/ ... ource.html
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Unread postby Wildwell » Sat 14 May 2005, 15:18:41

Ludi wrote:
Wildwell wrote:Renewable energy is nearly 10% world wide,


I do not consider nuclear and hydroelectric "renewable." Nuclear is based on a non-renewable resource and most hydroelectric sites are taken. Also large dams are harmful to the hydrologic cycle, hence not sustainable.

Please give a citation for your 10% figure.

http://encarta.msn.com/media_461518118/ ... ource.html


According the IEA it’s about 10% of PRIMARY energy, renewable actually makes up around 23% of electrical production.

ftp://ftp.eia.doe.gov/pub/pdf/international/0484(2001).pdf

Hydro IS renewable (according to the IEA) and it doesn’t always have to come from dammed sources, it currently makes up over 60% of Switzerland’s supply.

Hydropower alone is 19% of electricity worldwide.

http://www.worldenergy.org/wec-geis/pub ... /hydro.asp

2 billion people on the planet currently have no electricty, let alone use oil for cars.

More stats here on US

http://www.solarenergy.org/resources/energyfacts.html
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Unread postby gt1370a » Sun 15 May 2005, 10:04:04

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Unread postby Battle_Scarred_Galactico » Mon 16 May 2005, 04:43:42

"I don't know what people are waiting for, why they aren't doing something now instead of later... "

Exactly right.

How is all this amazing new infastrucure going to built if we wait for sky high oil prices (they aint exactly cheap now are they?) and huge insatability ?
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Unread postby PhilBiker » Mon 16 May 2005, 08:19:05

Thanks! Hope you don't mind when I re-use that. :)
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Unread postby Dezakin » Mon 16 May 2005, 14:18:56

I do not consider nuclear and hydroelectric "renewable." Nuclear is based on a non-renewable resource and most hydroelectric sites are taken.

Well I suppose the sun isn't renewable either. All the hydrogen will eventually be either helium or carbon, and then the gigs up in four billion years or so. Ultimately there is no renewable energy with todays model of a universe.

Nuclear fission power lasts as long as all other 'renewable energies' that we have in the modern world for purposes of discussion: for the next ten thousand years at least. One might suspect that sometime in the next ten thousand years we'll figure out how to do economical nuclear fusion or better.

There is enough recoverable uranium and thorium in the crust to run at least that long with a much much larger civilzation than we have today.

The peak oil issue isn't an energy issue so much as an economic transportation fuel issue. Energy we have plenty of.
Also large dams are harmful to the hydrologic cycle, hence not sustainable.

Doesn't the 'hydrolic cycle' adjust over the decades? What do you mean by this?
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Unread postby Ludi » Mon 16 May 2005, 16:27:50

Dezakin wrote:There is enough recoverable uranium and thorium in the crust to run at least that long with a much much larger civilzation than we have today.


That's debatable.

Doesn't the 'hydrolic cycle' adjust over the decades? What do you mean by this?


Large dams intercept the flow of nutrients from upstream, and change the amount of water available downstream, having sometimes severe impacts on ecosystems. Concentrating a large area of water where there previously wasn't one can have impacts on the local climate. Downstream, fertility of floodplains can be severely impacted.
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Unread postby Dezakin » Mon 16 May 2005, 17:41:36

That's debatable.


But the numbers allways add up to that conclusion; I've posted this before in the 'Attention- website full of lies to dispute, any takers?' thread:

Lets look at the average uranium and thorium in the crust: estimates of uranium I've seen are about 2.5 ppm for the earths crust, and for thorium its about 10 ppm.

If we are only focusing on the continental crust thats .374% of the earths mass, so .00374 * 5.9742 * 10^24, gives you about 2.79 *10^14 metric tons of nuclear fuel

Now you can run a 1 GW reactor on about 1 ton of nuclear fuel per year, and the energy necessary to give everyone on the planet an american lifestile is somewhere between 10 and 100 terawatts... lets say 100 terawatts... so you need about 10^5 tons per year of nuclear fuel.

This gives you about 10^9 years worth of fuel.

Anecdotally, we economically recover gold from ore grades as low as .5 ppm, and given that 1 ton of dirt has at least as much energy as 10 tons of coal, one might expect that you can get a positve energy return still.

You have to play with some real funny numbers to get not enough nuclear fuel for the next ten thousand years.

Large dams intercept the flow of nutrients from upstream, and change the amount of water available downstream, having sometimes severe impacts on ecosystems. Concentrating a large area of water where there previously wasn't one can have impacts on the local climate. Downstream, fertility of floodplains can be severely impacted.


Aren't dams essentially permanent structures though? I mean given that most damable rivers are allready damed, the dam itself becomes a part of the ecosystem over time, does it not?
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Unread postby Ludi » Mon 16 May 2005, 18:10:00

A large dam only becomes "part of the ecosystem" by changing the ecosystem significantly. And dams, unless they are built to discharge silt from the base, which most large dams aren't, will become huge waterfalls eventually.

Link about impact of dams: http://www.irn.org/basics/impacts.html

The silt problem: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1691732.stm

No point debating me about nuclear energy, it's irrelevant to me whether we have 1 year's worth of uranium, or ten thousand years' worth, I'm against the technology for esthetic and philosophic reasons.
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Unread postby Dezakin » Tue 17 May 2005, 00:19:57

No point debating me about nuclear energy, it's irrelevant to me whether we have 1 year's worth of uranium, or ten thousand years' worth, I'm against the technology for esthetic and philosophic reasons.


That doesn't make nuclear power any less of a valuable talking point. Nuclear power is used clearly to illustrate why we're not 'doomed' due to lack of energy, or even lack of relatively cheap electricity.

I don't believe that nuclear fission power will become more than 50% of our energy production however; My suspicion is that either solar or some other technology will have some economic breakthrough that makes it cheaper than nuclear fission. But I do use nuclear power as a talking point because we have the technology today and clearly arent exhausting it.

I also suspect that sometime within a century we'll develop either human level AI and/or mind-uploading, at which point biological humans will rapidly become irrelevant. These positions aren't terribly extreme when plotting human development, but they are too incredible it seems for most to contemplate. So I make my arguments from the position that technology can't change except in the very obvious ways.
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