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THE Nuclear Waste Thread (merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: nuclear waste? out of sight, out of mind?!

Unread postby Specop_007 » Tue 13 Sep 2005, 08:26:43

Modern plant designs are essentially meltdown proof. Between redundant systems, monitoring and the overall design you could not cause one to go runaway. It just wont happen.

Additionally, modern waste handling methods really make the amount of waste insignifigant. Not non existant, but it only leaves very small amounts.
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Re: nuclear waste? out of sight, out of mind?!

Unread postby Starvid » Tue 13 Sep 2005, 08:50:01

thor wrote:Why not shoot nuclear waste into the sun by means of the very reliable Soyuz rockets? Besides, space is extremely 'polluted' with radioactivity.


While this might seem an attractive option, it is not. It is expenisve, energy intensive, and really, really wasteful.

The so-called waste is not waste. It is once-used fuel which still has about 98 % (!) of its energy content left. We migh very well need the "waste" as fuel in future nuclear plants.
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Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby khebab » Mon 21 Nov 2005, 08:48:15

There is a really good article in the December issue of Scientific Amercian about how to recycle nuclear waste into new nuclear fuel:

Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste

Fast-neutron reactors could extract much more energy from recycled nuclear fuel, minimize the risks of weapons proliferation and markedly reduce the time nuclear waste must be isolated
By William H. Hannum, Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford

Despite long-standing public concern about the safety of nuclear energy, more and more people are realizing that it may be the most environmentally friendly way to generate large amounts of electricity. Several nations, including Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam, are building or planning nuclear plants. But this global trend has not as yet extended to the U.S., where work on the last such facility began some 30 years ago.

If developed sensibly, nuclear power could be truly sustainable and essentially inexhaustible and could operate without contributing to climate change. In particular, a relatively new form of nuclear technology could overcome the principal drawbacks of current methods--;namely, worries about reactor accidents, the potential for diversion of nuclear fuel into highly destructive weapons, the management of dangerous, long-lived radioactive waste, and the depletion of global reserves of economically available uranium. This nuclear fuel cycle would combine two innovations: pyrometallurgical processing (a high-temperature method of recycling reactor waste into fuel) and advanced fast-neutron reactors capable of burning that fuel. With this approach, the radioactivity from the generated waste could drop to safe levels in a few hundred years, thereby eliminating the need to segregate waste for tens of thousands of years....continued at Scientific American Digital
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Dezakin » Mon 21 Nov 2005, 16:22:51

Bah, more crap rehashing of molten chloride reprocessing techniques from ANL and trumpeting of fast neutron reactors. Its as if all these guys saw the same NOVA episode on PBS.

Molten flouride fuel reactors are still far superior, and apparently no one ever remembers the MSBR experiment that illustrated a vastly superior fuel cycle.

Fast reactors shouldnt ever be used. They're expensive, expensive, and expensive. They're really good at breeding, which means they're ideally designed for producing weapons material, not destroying it. Chuck your waste into the flouride slurry of a molten salt reactor instead. Its cheaper and more elegant.

http://lpsc.in2p3.fr/gpr/global01/th_MSR_HR.pdf
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Starvid » Mon 21 Nov 2005, 19:40:13

Image

Can you use U-238 in it?
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Dezakin » Mon 21 Nov 2005, 19:52:32

Yes of course. Thorium is generally prefered because its three times as abundant and an ideal fuel for epithermal and thermal neutron spectra, and because transuranic actinides are less soluable in FliBe (the molten salt with excellent neutronics that we know have no corrosion issues) than they could be. Generally U233 is thought of as the best thermal reactor fuel and Pu239 the best fast reactor fuel.

There has been some study into using molten chlorides for fast (or at least harder neutron spectra than the flourides) reators that are more dominant in burning transuranics, but they are riddled with complications in chemistry and corrosion issues and generally desirable than molten flourides in my view. (Though caveat, I'm largely unfamiliar with the details of molten chloride reactors) Especially since you can address waste incineration in molten flouride thermal reactors by mixing the fuel right.

Molten salt reactors are very easily leveragable for waste incineration, and many studies focus on using spent reactor fuel from light water reactors as the fissile seed material to kickstart them. Seems like an excellent way to address the nuclear waste issue.
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 21 Nov 2005, 20:50:27

Dezakin wrote:Bah, more crap rehashing of molten chloride reprocessing techniques from ANL and trumpeting of fast neutron reactors. Its as if all these guys saw the same NOVA episode on PBS.

Molten flouride fuel reactors are still far superior, and apparently no one ever remembers the MSBR experiment that illustrated a vastly superior fuel cycle.

Fast reactors shouldnt ever be used. They're expensive, expensive, and expensive. They're really good at breeding, which means they're ideally designed for producing weapons material, not destroying it. Chuck your waste into the flouride slurry of a molten salt reactor instead. Its cheaper and more elegant.

http://lpsc.in2p3.fr/gpr/global01/th_MSR_HR.pdf


Of course as I like to point out, MSBR give excellent preformance in seperating Pa-233 through online reprocessing which gives you a steady supply of U-233 after a year for it to decay. The great thing about U-233 isn't that it makes excellent bombs, whihc it does, but rather that it can be downblended with recovered Uranium from spent fuel to re-enrich it for another cycle through a LWR.
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Dezakin » Mon 21 Nov 2005, 21:07:08

Of course as I like to point out, MSBR give excellent preformance in seperating Pa-233 through online reprocessing which gives you a steady supply of U-233 after a year for it to decay.


Undesirable. MSBR's have breeding ratios very close to 1; About 1.05 I believe is the breeding ratio quoted in most studies I've seen. This is just enough to fuel the reactor itself, not spin more fuel for LWRs. Besides, the partitioning of Pa-233 is onsite so you might as well save your dime that would have gone into fuel fabrication and whatnot. LWRs should be decomissioned, and the ones that are still running can easily get more fuel for them for many decades to come with ordinary uranium mining and enrichment without jury-rigging what essentially is a converter reactor into being something else.

The great thing about U-233 isn't that it makes excellent bombs, whihc it does


Nitpick: Just because you can weaponize it doesnt make it good for bombs. If I was a weapon designer the best material would be Pu239. Its more stable (untill you blow it) and has only alpha as a decay mode which makes it very safe to handle and operate on. U233 decays in a blast of gammas. Better hope the shop fabbed your bomb right cause you arent taking it apart for any reason.
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Tanada » Tue 22 Nov 2005, 06:12:43

Dezakin wrote:
Of course as I like to point out, MSBR give excellent preformance in seperating Pa-233 through online reprocessing which gives you a steady supply of U-233 after a year for it to decay.


Undesirable. MSBR's have breeding ratios very close to 1; About 1.05 I believe is the breeding ratio quoted in most studies I've seen. This is just enough to fuel the reactor itself, not spin more fuel for LWRs. Besides, the partitioning of Pa-233 is onsite so you might as well save your dime that would have gone into fuel fabrication and whatnot. LWRs should be decomissioned, and the ones that are still running can easily get more fuel for them for many decades to come with ordinary uranium mining and enrichment without jury-rigging what essentially is a converter reactor into being something else.

The great thing about U-233 isn't that it makes excellent bombs, whihc it does


Nitpick: Just because you can weaponize it doesnt make it good for bombs. If I was a weapon designer the best material would be Pu239. Its more stable (untill you blow it) and has only alpha as a decay mode which makes it very safe to handle and operate on. U233 decays in a blast of gammas. Better hope the shop fabbed your bomb right cause you arent taking it apart for any reason.


MSRB are only breeders if you DO partition the Pa-233, if you leave it in the fuel too much of it undergoes thermal neutron capture becoming Pa-234 which decays to U-234. U-234 is fertile and with another neutron becomes U-235, but the process of going from (Th-232+n)=Pa-233(decay)U-233 consumes one neutron while (Th-232+n=Pa-233)+n=Pa-234(decay)U-234+n=U-235. You still get a fission fuel good for thermal neutrons but you consume 3 neutrons to get there instead of 1. This is a real killer for the breeding ratio to exceed unity. The orriginal plan was to seperate out fission waste and Pa-233 from the fuel continuosly while adding back U-233 after the Pa-233 has undergone decay. Modern plans vary all over the map, but the best current scheme I have seen is you use higher actinides, Np-237,Pu-239,Pu-241,Pu-243,Am241 as your fuel feed, Th-232 as your fertile mass and Pa-233 as your bred material resulting in U-233.

As for the radiation danger of U-233 in its pure form, which is what you get after the Pa-233 has had time to decay, see U-233 LINK
in general in thorium breeders it is the other uranium isotopes that result and there decay chains that pose the hazzard. U-233 is an alpha emitter with a half life of 159000 years, considerably longer than Pu-239 which is also an alpha emmiter with 24000 years. The six times longer half life greatly reduces the heating problem so common in plutonium fueld weapons, and with Pa-233 partitioning you can get effectively pure U-233 by waiting 24 months before using it.
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Dezakin » Tue 22 Nov 2005, 13:51:44

Whats the breeding ratio with Pa partitioning?

As I remember it it was quoted as about 1.05 in most designs. Not exactly a fuel source, because unless you are significantly above 1 you are only a converter reactor making only enough fuel for yourself.

I like the idea of using higher actinides in the fuel matrix, but only as a small percentage of it because transuranic actinides are generally less soluble in FliBe. While they are more soluble in FliNaK, FLiNaK also has unresolved corrosion issues and a poorer neutron economy hindering breeding performance.

As for the radiation danger of U-233 in its pure form, which is what you get after the Pa-233 has had time to decay, see U-233 LINK

Pu239 has an alpha decay to U235 which has a very long half life while U233 decays to Th229 which has a short half life and explosive decay chain just underneath it. That and the U232 residuals from partitioning have explosive gamma decay chains.

You can avoid U232 contamination, true, but you would never bother in power production. Most prefer to use Pu239 because the gammas are a pain. India might use U233 because they have hardly any uranium and yet thorium reserves.

http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq6.html
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Tanada » Tue 22 Nov 2005, 17:53:53

Dezakin wrote:Whats the breeding ratio with Pa partitioning?

As I remember it it was quoted as about 1.05 in most designs. Not exactly a fuel source, because unless you are significantly above 1 you are only a converter reactor making only enough fuel for yourself.

I like the idea of using higher actinides in the fuel matrix, but only as a small percentage of it because transuranic actinides are generally less soluble in FliBe. While they are more soluble in FliNaK, FLiNaK also has unresolved corrosion issues and a poorer neutron economy hindering breeding performance.

As for the radiation danger of U-233 in its pure form, which is what you get after the Pa-233 has had time to decay, see U-233 LINK

Pu239 has an alpha decay to U235 which has a very long half life while U233 decays to Th229 which has a short half life and explosive decay chain just underneath it. That and the U232 residuals from partitioning have explosive gamma decay chains.

You can avoid U232 contamination, true, but you would never bother in power production. Most prefer to use Pu239 because the gammas are a pain. India might use U233 because they have hardly any uranium and yet thorium reserves.

http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq6.html


From the old book sources I have the 1.05 breeding ratio is WITH Pa-233 partitioning, if you leave the Pa-233 in the fuel it falls to around .96, which is a high efficiency converter, not a breeder.

As for how much actinide to use, from the sources I have the total fissionable mass in the fuel is only .033%, the vast bulk is Li and Be fluoride salts and about 5% is Thorium Fluoride salts, this is doable because the graphite core is an excellent moderator and the continuous waste removal process keeps fission poisons from accumulating and stifling the reaction.

For more info on burning actinides in an MSBR I recommend the following IAEA document IAEA Report on MSBR if covers the whole concept for weapons plutonium and for reactor grade actinides.
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby gg3 » Tue 22 Nov 2005, 20:23:30

Very interesting stuff here. Some of this is over my head so I have some reading to do.

Dezakin, based on your posts in another topic, I'd almost written you off as an "economic ideologue" (i.e. someone who believes in growth for its own sake, based on economics-as-ideology, but doesn't have a whole lot of knowledge of science & engineering). Your comments in this topic have changed my opinion on that, so I'll not prejudge your comments elsewhere.

It appears the nuclear industry is presently in the enviable position of having a number of new reactor designs to choose from, each of which has its benefits. Seems to me the logical way to proceed is to try all of them and look at their track records. Most of these designs will probably turn out to have optimal niches.

And while this doesn't solve the issue of oil as industrial feedstock (i.e. for fertilizers and so on), it may solve our energy problems far enough to give us some breathing room to deal with the rest of it.

What we need right now is a hardcore push for science & engineering education starting in elementary school levels, to start training the next generation of engineers who will build and operate these plants (as well as the wind installations and so on that will make up the rest of the power mix). I have to believe that a generation of rational people will also be better positioned to solve the other issues around oil, and also solve other core sustainability issues as well.

It's time to push back hard against the political/ideological obscurantism that's become fashionable in the US lately. Think of what Sputnik did for us in that regard. Presently what we have is not an adversary with a technological edge (USSR), inspiring us to get serious about science & technology, but an adversary with religious fanaticism (Al Qaeda), inspiring more of the same here in our own culture (Dobson et. al., Intelligent Design, and all of that). What we need is one of those "sit up and get serious" moments like when Sputnik was launched.

There might be hope for our species after all. That would be a pleasant change of pace!
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby EnergySpin » Wed 23 Nov 2005, 03:10:33

gg3 wrote:And while this doesn't solve the issue of oil as industrial feedstock (i.e. for fertilizers and so on), it may solve our energy problems far enough to give us some breathing room to deal with the rest of it.


Actually gg3 ... both these problems are almost non-problems. First of all:
1) Did you read the original NH3 thread? Plenty of information there regarding synthesis of fertilizers without FF input. I started the thread a few months ago, without knowing that NREL has an ammonia group. There was a recent conference in Chicago about NH3 synthesis from air and water. The catch is that you need electricity and this is where nuclear enters the big picture.
In addition, municipal waste treatment should be able to generate enough urea to go ABOVE the current output of fertilizers. Depending on how you set up the plants, municipal waste treatment facilities can be either slightly positive or slightly negative EROEI and in the latter case .... nuclear+Wind can pick up the tab.
2) Regarding other feedstock ... first one can use carbohydrates (i.e. plant material) to generate enough C2 molecules for polymerization. Given the small % of FF that goes into plastic production land/area considerations are irrelevant. Aromatic side chains can actually be derived from microbes. We supercharge the corresponding metabolic pathways through GM and cultivate them in bioreactors. The field of metabolic engineering which deals with such issues is mature ... and through GM and flexible genetic cassettes we can do to genetic engineering what CBSE did to Software Development. In fact we do these things right now .....

gg3 wrote:What we need right now is a hardcore push for science & engineering education starting in elementary school levels, to start training the next generation of engineers who will build and operate these plants (as well as the wind installations and so on that will make up the rest of the power mix). I have to believe that a generation of rational people will also be better positioned to solve the other issues around oil, and also solve other core sustainability issues as well.

Correct ... but believe me the post-secondary education is also in a pathetic state across the world. I think we have to reconsider the big picture in secondary AND post-secondary education ..... But this is a much bigger issue to discuss in this thread or even this forum. But education will be key ...

Links to the NH3 thread ....
http://peakoil.com/fortopic10734.html
and the NREL conference presentations ....
http://www.energy.iastate.edu/renewable ... Mtg05.html
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Re: Scientific American: Recycling Nuclear Waste into Energy

Unread postby Dezakin » Wed 23 Nov 2005, 19:44:53

Dezakin, based on your posts in another topic, I'd almost written you off as an "economic ideologue" (i.e. someone who believes in growth for its own sake, based on economics-as-ideology, but doesn't have a whole lot of knowledge of science & engineering).

Then I feel its only fair for me to clarify my political character in the whole debate: You can write me off as an economic ideologue if you want. I admit I do 'believe in growth for its own sake.' It just means that I have my own opinions on what humanity should strive for and what risks we should take.

It means that I feel that its preferable to wipe out all wildlife on earth and construct a vast banal civilization of glass and steel (with whatever actually is biologically necissary to support humanity, crops) in the quest for growth than to stagnate, where it seems many others are rather horrified at the concept of such a world without natural places, if they get beyond believing such an artificial world is impossible.

Sure, I suppose its not naturalistic, and a bit nihilistic, but it stems from my opinion that the earth is precariously lucky to be stable for so long and such stability may be very transitory, so its our obligation to survive by growing as fast as possible to escape the confines of a single planet before some asteroid smashes the entire biosphere back to proteins.

You can work from there, and add as many grains of salt as you want when you read my arguments. I see that such growth is possible, if you dismiss concepts like biological carrying capacity at least. (Which I do because it strikes me as comparing herds of antelope to sustainability of humans as apples to dump trucks) If you believe the more doomer crowd that we have actually exceeded carrying capacity somehow, then you can feel free to disregard this argument as well.

Running numbers with todays technology, assuming technology doesnt change at all we have enough nuclear to last us at least ten thousand years using light water reactors. (caveat: at constant power consumption, not with growth) though I honestly expect that technology will advance a little bit over the next several centuries. I see all limiting factors on growth as derivitives of energy, from water and crops to industrial metals.

But most of my projections here are far more conservative than what I actually expect will happen. I expect we'll develop strong AI sometime in the next century, and humanity will have an explosive growth throughout the galaxy over the next thousand years consuming most of the resourses of this end of the spiral arm as the whole of earth (and other planets) are converted to 'computronium' and machines. But I wont argue the plausibility of that (because its mostly intuition and trends along with some economic papers analyzing the effect of strong AI on economic growth.)

So I'm far more cornucopian than most here and at the same time far more nihilistic: my gut tells me civilization has a bright future, but humanity wont be part of it at all. This position is very unpopular apparently. Its certainly very unromantic.

So I take strange positions like: I am a booster for nukes even though I honestly expect that advanced reactor designs wont ever be competitive, because I expect something much more competitive will come along. I love molten salt reactors but I dont think they'll ever be comercialized because we'll have solar far too cheap, or somehow manage to pull off aneutronic fusion on the cheap, or one of those keelynet free energy loons actually manages to extract energy from the vacuum after all. I write about crop sustainability when I think the whole point is moot in a hundred and fifty years because large parts of humanity will either be downloaded or exterminated by the robot overlords, and/or because crops will be entirely synthesized by direct chemical processes rather than slow inefficient farming.

But I still like writing about it, nukes especially because they provide a ground floor to what is possible: Assuming technology doesnt change at all, the worst we have is ten thousand years of civilization.
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NY Times Science section on nuclear reactors/waste

Unread postby Daryl » Tue 27 Dec 2005, 14:48:38

link I was wondering what you nuke guys think about this article? NY Times doesn't publish stuff by accident. Is there alot of liberal spin in it?

In the article one critic says says a new generation of reactors would cost tens of billions of dollars. Sounds cheap to me. What does the US spend in Iraq every month, $6B?
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Re: NY Times Science section on nuke reactors/waste

Unread postby EnergySpin » Tue 27 Dec 2005, 15:13:30

Hm ... sorry this is just a combination of reprocessing+ breeder technology, a mature, proven technology since the 60s (where did you think the plutonium for the ICBMs came from?).
The French have been doing the reprocessing part for EVER (or at least since they started their nuclear program), and thus can realise the full benefit of non-breeder nuclear technology.

The problems are NOT technical ... they are political (check my signature). Me thinks you nailed the financial part .... and as oil is getting more expensive the only sound economical decision will be to go nuclear. Add the costs by GW ... and you've got a pretty good idea about the non-viability of the non-nuclear strategy.

Regarding the plutonium thingy ... it can be burned in nuclear reactors (MOX fuel); TVA and the others are just dragging their feet (they do it with coal too).

It is nice to see that the scientists dismiss the scare-mongering regarding peak uranium:
Frank N. von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton, said that a new generation of reactors would cost tens of billions of dollars and that it would be a long time before it was clear that reprocessed fuel was needed.


To sum up ... this article just summarizes a strategy that the US opted out years ago due to proliferation concerns. Japan and France are doing it today , so we are not talking about something exotic. This is a working, valid technology.
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Re: NY Times Science section on nuke reactors/waste

Unread postby Starvid » Tue 27 Dec 2005, 15:15:09

It was a good article, especially as it described reprocessing in a pedagogic way.

Come to think of the whole Yucca mountain mess. Maybe you should give it up and put the waste were people accept it. North Carolina, Florida, Washington DC maybe. Our repository will be 200 km from our capital city so it wouldn't be a problem. As long as the ground is stable you can put it anywhere.
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Re: NY Times Science section on nuke reactors/waste

Unread postby Slowpoke » Tue 27 Dec 2005, 16:58:49

Frank N. von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton, said that a new generation of reactors would cost tens of billions of dollars and that it would be a long time before it was clear that reprocessed fuel was needed.


"- I want a million dollars !
- Umm, Dr. Evil...
- What now ?
- A million dollars isn't that much money anymore. Y'know, inflation and all that.
- Oh."
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Re: NY Times Science section on nuke reactors/waste

Unread postby EnergySpin » Wed 28 Dec 2005, 03:52:41

Slowpoke wrote:
Frank N. von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton, said that a new generation of reactors would cost tens of billions of dollars and that it would be a long time before it was clear that reprocessed fuel was needed.


"- I want a million dollars !
- Umm, Dr. Evil...
- What now ?
- A million dollars isn't that much money anymore. Y'know, inflation and all that.
- Oh."

Slowpoke, I think the "Xmas calories" have blurred by thinking, but I see the cost of nuclear as largely irrelevant, because:
a) the inflationary trends of the FF economy are likely to get worse in the future
b) the economic impact of GW (2nd to FF) will get worse in the future
c) the economic impact of an insecure FF supply (combo of Islamist lunies+decreasing capacity) will get worse in the future
d) the cost of building the LNG infrastructure
all add up to a cummulative cost figure that far exceeds the cost of a "nuclear world".

Unless I completely missed the central idea in your post :roll:
Last edited by EnergySpin on Wed 28 Dec 2005, 05:09:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NY Times Science section on nuke reactors/waste

Unread postby Devil » Wed 28 Dec 2005, 04:28:50

Daryl wrote:Is there alot of liberal spin in it?


Why do you have to see political spooks at every corner?
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