Separation technology can stem nuclear waste threat

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Nuclear pundits use far-reaching extrapolations on coal and oil data to create a mirage in the public’s mind of a power source that makes a safe, clean and cheap contribution to the environment and America’s needs.

Actually, it is dangerous, polluting, and exorbitantly expensive because of the deadly waste created during the production of nuclear energy. It is a waste that science and engineering cannot destroy or permanently control.

There are two kinds of nuclear waste: defense waste (from nuclear weapons development) and spent nuclear fuel (from producing nuclear energy at commercial plants).

IN CONGRESSIONAL testimony, David Huizenga, senior Department of Energy advisor for environmental management, reported that U.S. defense waste includes 88 million gallons of the world’s most dangerous radioactive wastes; thousands of tons of federal spent nuclear fuel; more than 10,000 containers of excess plutonium and uranium; more than 5,000 contaminated facilities; millions of cubic meters of contaminated soil; and billions of gallons of contaminated groundwater.

There also are more than 75,000 tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel, spread across 31 states, which grows by 2,000 tons annually. According to a 2012 Oak Ridge National Laboratory study, spent nuclear fuel has no economic or national security value and can be permanently stored where there is no prospect of retrieval. Like defense waste, it is also waste.

THE DANGER OF nuclear waste is not only that we have no place to permanently store it, there is no technology that can destroy it. It can be processed or reprocessed, but those treatments only change its form. It does not go away.

According to Edwin Lyman, senior scientist of the Union of Concerned Scientists, reprocessing is the worst possible alternative to deep geological disposal because it greatly increases the cost and dangers by increasing the total volume of nuclear waste sevenfold. Reprocessing also would produce copious quantities of concentrated nuclear weapon-usable materials – primarily plutonium. “One large reprocessing plant can produce about 1,000 bombs’ worth of plutonium each year.” (The Wall Street Journal, April 15)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports hundreds of malfunctions, reactor wall fractures, human errors and shutdowns at our aging nuclear power plants each year, involving radioactive releases or near misses. San Onofre, on the California coast, is one example.

ITS REACTORS HAVE been shut down since January 2012 because of a radioactive gas release when new generators were installed and the thousands of feet of aging piping and tubes could not withstand the pressure from the new generators. If decommissioned, San Onofre will leave behind thousands of tons of nuclear waste, like all the other closed nuclear plants. Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant reminded us of the potential disaster that could occur in the event of a spent nuclear fuel cooling pool failure.

Scientists argue that the constant interaction of subsurface elements cause continuous change, and no engineered environments can be created to permanently and safely contain nuclear waste. Corroding containers also are a problem.

Turning it into fairy dust is the only safe option. At the 1998 NATO Advanced Institute a series of research reports indicated progress in this direction. Chemical separation technology (called partitioning and transmutation, or P/T) would destroy much of the waste’s energy. The remainder would be lower in volume, radioactivity and half-life. A court recently ruled that the NRC might not issue licenses, or renew the license of the 60 old reactors, until the government offers a disposal method.

P/T appears to offer the most sensible solution. However, even if P/T proves able to destroy nuclear waste, reactor vessels in closed plants normally remain extremely radiologic. For example, one decommissioned facility at Savannah River Site had a reactor vessel that measured some 430,000 curies and was grouted in place to protect workers.

There are 6,650 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste stored in South Carolina and Georgia. Only one state, Illinois, has more. Is it safe from unanticipated disasters? In the words of Rutgers University statistician Lee Clark, “Things that have never happened before happen all the time.”

(The writer chairs the Nuclear Materials Committee of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Site-Specific Advisory Board for Savannah River Site. She contributes this article as a private citizen.)

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soapy_725
43553
Points
soapy_725 04/28/13 - 09:42 am
0
1
Just do what the scientist intended in the beginning.
Unpublished

Before they or anyone realized the potential of nuclear waste. The reason nuclear sites are built on or near "natural faults" in the earth's crust. Pump that material deep, deep, deep into the round. Cover it with concrete. Out of site, out of mind.

A PBS documentary many years ago talked about the future of nuclear science. It was hosted by an army general who was dying of cancer. He was in the NV deserts, ground zero, when testing was being done. It was part of his job to control access to information about the potential of nuclear power. The program had overlays of the USA with natural faults, nuclear facilities and reported rates of cancer/heart conditions. They matched!!! The general was deceased before the program aired.

Does anyone actually believe that nuclear plants would "accidentally" be built over a potential earthquake zone? Think!! They have to be near large flows of water for cooling. They are!!! No accident.

gunnarlittmarck
4
Points
gunnarlittmarck 04/28/13 - 12:45 pm
0
0
Are nuclear waste really waste?

First see Kirk Sorensen so you get basic knowledge.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv-mFSoZOkE

Now than the old nuclear countries in the Western has left walkover in nuclear, the rapidly growing nuclear power countries take on, plus India and Russia who never left walkover in the energy battle.

India has its three-step program where that you call waste is their major fuel for step two which starts now.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India%27s_three-stage_nuclear_power_programme

The spent fuel in the U.S. civilian reactors can be ground down and heated in oxygen, then releases the most radioactive substances (therefore short-lived in 300 years they have reached background radiation).

The rest is 95% U238 1%U235 (concentrations higher than natural uranium, heavy water reactors can be operated directly with current waste) 1% Pu 1% Am 1% Np 1% Cr, about.

This pushed into new fuel rods for use in fast reactors as the Russian BN800, it will certainly destroy weapons material but could just as easily destroy U.S. nuclear waste and then produce 70 times as much electricity as the reactors that created the waste done.

The best way is though to make a cheap fluoride salt of the one time used nuclear fuel, and then feed a FSMSR (fast spectrum molten salt reactor), that is what Oake Ridge suggest in there report 2010.
A company from MIT develop a FSMSR, but there is many more globally, David LeBlanc is one of mine favorites.

All GenIV like today's nuclear waste and the best models produce up to 300 times more useful energy out of the once produced uranium as today's U.S. reactors.
http://www.gen-4.org/GIF/About/index.htm

Nuclear GenIV is mankind's only fossil-free alternativ.

I hope that you will be less afraid after study this subject some hundred or thousand hour.

Knowledge is King.

Yes You Can!

gunnarlittmarck
4
Points
gunnarlittmarck 04/28/13 - 01:41 pm
0
0
Is nuclear waste really waste?

First see Kirk Sorensen so you get basic knowledge.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv-mFSoZOkE

Now than the old nuclear countries in the Western has left walkover in nuclear, the rapidly growing nuclear power countries take on, plus India and Russia who never left walkover in the energy battle.

India has its three-step program where that you call waste is their major fuel for step two which starts now.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India%27s_three-stage_nuclear_power_programme

The spent fuel in the U.S. civilian reactors can be ground down and heated in oxygen, then releases the most radioactive substances (therefore short-lived in 300 years they have reached background radiation).

The rest is 95% U238 1%U235 (concentrations higher than natural uranium, heavy water reactors can be operated directly with current waste) 1% Pu 1% Am 1% Np 1% Cm, about.

This pushed into new fuel rods for use in fast reactors as the Russian BN800, it will certainly destroy weapons material but could just as easily destroy U.S. nuclear waste and then produce 70 times as much electricity as the reactors that created the waste done.

The best way is though to make a cheap fluoride salt of the one time used nuclear fuel, and then feed a FSMSR (fast spectrum molten salt reactor), that is what Oake Ridge suggest in there report 2010.
A company from MIT develop a FSMSR, but there is many more globally, David LeBlanc is one of mine favorites.

All GenIV like today's nuclear waste and the best models produce up to 300 times more useful energy out of the once produced uranium as today's U.S. reactors.
http://www.gen-4.org/GIF/About/index.htm

Nuclear GenIV is mankind's only fossil-free alternativ.

I hope that you will be less afraid after study this subject some hundred or thousand hour.

Knowledge is King.

Yes You Can!

BigCheeseBear
4
Points
BigCheeseBear 05/28/13 - 06:49 pm
0
0
A Kernel of Truth

While Dr. Hayes gives the standard incorrect anti-nuclear statements of those opposed to nuclear power, there is a kernel of truth in her title (“Separation technology can stem nuclear waste threat”). Separation technology, like that developed at Savannah River Site, can indeed be an important part of managing nuclear wastes. Used nuclear fuel can be separated – “partitioned” – into uranium, plutonium and other transuranics, and fission products. The uranium can be used to make new reactor fuel. The plutonium and transuranics can be recycled into a reactor and the materials will be transmuted and turned into fission products, the only waste product of the nuclear fuel cycle. These fission products will decay in about 300 years to harmless levels where the radioactivity emitted by the fission products is lower than the radioactivity naturally emitted by the Uranium ore used to produce the original fuel.  There are fuel management technologies to condition the waste to forms suitable for geologic disposal, and to minimize the disposal time required for decay to harmless levels; these are the so-called "partitioning and transmutation" technologies to which Dr. Hayes refers.

Far from being a huge, expensive problem, management of these materials is expected to cost only one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated – about 2% of the cost of the electricity produced. The volume of the waste is about the size of an aspirin tablet from producing enough electricity for one person for a year. The unit cost of electricity derived from nuclear power is inexpensive, and remains cost-competitive with coal and natural gas technologies.  Nuclear power is the only low-cost, dispatchable (non-intermittent) electric generation technology that does not generate air-pollution or green-house gases in routine operation.

That the US does not have an operating repository for nuclear waste is a political problem, not a technical problem. The technologies, many of them developed at Savannah River, are ready. We now need the political resolve to use them.

Luca Gratton and Ken Schultz
San Diego Section of the American Nuclear Society

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