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(Wall Street Journal)   US high-level nuclear waste continues to be stored in temporary above-ground casks, which are temporary much the way your brother-in-law sleeping in the guest room is temporary   (online.wsj.com) divider line 95
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2882 clicks; posted to Main » on 02 Jun 2010 at 4:34 AM (4 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2010-06-02 10:22:53 AM
If it's so dangerous then you'd think it could still be useful for something.

Tell me again why it can't be fired into the sun....?
 
2010-06-02 10:23:25 AM
Reprocess it, dump everything leftover in WIPP until Harry Reid retires, then go back to Yucca. Problem solved.
 
2010-06-02 10:38:20 AM
Chakka: If it's so dangerous then you'd think it could still be useful for something.

Tell me again why it can't be fired into the sun....?




oh .. money... gotcha .. nm

ok.. so then you put it on a loooooong rope so that it gets held above the atmosphere by centrifugal force and then cut the rope and fling it at the sun.

seriously though, if the price is right they can store some in my garage.
 
2010-06-02 10:41:33 AM
BokerBill: Years ago I was talking about nuclear waste with my dad - I forget how it came up: just go with it. He went to the corner of the living room where there was a large globe. He pulled it off its base, turned Antarctica to the view, and pointed to the big hole where the South Pole should be. "Why not just put it there?"

/Now, who could argue with that?
//You're welcome. Glad I could help.


they could put it in that sinkhole that swallowed that house out in bumfark, south america.

or.. they could just send it straight to heck.
 
2010-06-02 10:48:48 AM
signaljammer: Here in Chicagoland, we have a disused reactor sitting on the lake. They used to run it a coupla days a year, to avoid its mandated removal. Its reactor vessel was made from pieces of hardened steel welded together. The hardeners in the steel are now really radioactive, and nobody knows how to get rid of these things.

BS. Zion closed 12 years ago, the utility gave their license to operate up, and it was defueled. The site's listed as being in 'SAFSTOR', i.e. defueled and slightly decontaminated, but otherwise left alone. It can't run, period.

Most older reactors are welded together. New ones are forged. once the internals are removed, they take the vessel out and transport it in one piece to the burial site. It's actually not _that_ radioactive - they wrap it in shrink wrap and put it on a truck.

Tearing down Oyster Creek and Dresden 2 & 3 will be interesting - BWRs tend to have HUGE pressure vessels, and those are the first big BWRs to go (other than Shoreham, which barely ran)

As far as PWRs / BWRs making 'bomb fuel', they're horrid at it - the PU content has way too much Pu-240, etc in it, especially with today's really high burnups. The brits were able to do it with the CO2 cooled Magnox (which WAS a fuel producing reactor), because the burnup was 1/3rd what a BWR/PWR was back then (more like 1/10th current day burnups), and was a natural fueled graphite moderated mess anyway. That's where the fuel for the infamous 'power plant fuel bomb' came from. It's easy to make a bomb with bomb materials...

Where's our favorite nukie farkette when you need her?

/me misses her :(
 
2010-06-02 10:52:03 AM
PsychoPhil

Didn't Oyster Creek get a license extension? Could be a while before we see the early BWRs decommisioned.
 
2010-06-02 10:53:47 AM
Skleenar: Nuclear power is just about one of the least effective means we have to reduce CO2 emissions, on a cost per avoided ton basis.

Not really sure how your graph supports this, as it only shows cost per kWh. There's nothing in there about displacing carbon emissions.

I'll grant you that nuclear power is an expensive power source, due to the high startup costs. But in any legitimate analysis, there's no carbon-neutral power source other than nuclear that can be generated on a large, base-load scale. Solar and wind power will never be able to produce power on the massive scale that nuclear power does, both due to the intermittent source of power and the huge amount of space required to get useful quantities of energy output.

One thing I think we can all agree on is that we need to start more seriously promoting energy efficiency and conservation policies and technologies. How do we start moving towards ending these arguments about energy? Use less of it.
 
2010-06-02 10:55:38 AM
can we store off the coast of Louisiana?
 
2010-06-02 11:08:49 AM
I have personally helped load one of these casks, and the threat of a shoulder mounted rocket attack is laughable... these casks are designed such that they can withstand the impact of a fully loaded freight train going 80mph and not rupture. "robust" is an understatement from the NRC guy.
 
2010-06-02 11:10:14 AM
pecosdave: I still can't believe we're not allowed to use this stuff to generate more electricity because Jimmy Carter said so. Come on, I was born during his administration, there's been multiple two term presidents since then, there's been plenty of time to undo this.

What your article said:
In October 1976, fear of nuclear weapons proliferation (especially after India demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities using reprocessing technology) led President Gerald Ford to issue a Presidential directive to indefinitely suspend the commercial reprocessing and recycling of plutonium in the U.S. On April 7, 1977 , President Jimmy Carter banned the reprocessing of commercial reactor spent nuclear fuel. The key issue driving this policy was the serious threat of nuclear weapons proliferation by diversion of plutonium from the civilian fuel cycle, and to encourage other nations to follow the USA lead. [4] . After that, only countries that already had large investments in reprocessing infrastructure continued to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. President Reagan lifted the ban in 1981, but did not provide the substantial subsidy that would have been necessary to start up commercial reprocessing.[5]

What you saw:
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Jimmy Carter blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
 
2010-06-02 11:12:51 AM
There are 31 countries with nuclear power technology, 30 of them reprocess.. any guesses which one doesn't?
 
2010-06-02 11:14:31 AM
seal614: PsychoPhil

Didn't Oyster Creek get a license extension? Could be a while before we see the early BWRs decommisioned.


20 years. But I don't think anyone honestly thinks it'll run that long. I'm guessing 5 to 15, the lower numbers assume the political crap takes hold, the upper numbers assume OC's general age. Few nukes worldwide have gone much beyond 50 years...

AFAIK, the largest BWR cut up so far is Big Rock Pt. All 75 MW of it.
 
2010-06-02 11:21:51 AM
draaga: I am not advocating shipping this junk off into space just any old where but, and please tell me if I am way off base here, why cant we pull a Superman IV and toss the stuff into the Sun?

Not a scientist so there is more than likely a very valid reason. I just don't know what it is and would like to.


While this would be potentially dangerous, the whole rocket blowing up thing, that should be a solvable engineering problem. As it is, the shipping containers we already put nuclear waste in to transport are tested extensively. We could certainly design a container and delivery method with enough built in safety and safe failure modes to keep the risk of contamination to near zero levels.

As for cost, heck that's just money, the government is good at throwing that down holes. Just think of all the jobs this would provide!
(I feel sort of dirty now)

The question that you should stop and ask is:
Why in the world do you want to make this stuff irretrievable?

Right now it's waste which is annoying to reprocess or could be burned in an IFR type reactor. However, once we run ourselves out of coal or oil, or the will to use either, we are going to need some sort of base load power. Our choices are going to be either nuclear or geothermal. And the later can be difficult to use in a lot of places, so we're back to nuclear. So, why are you trying to put tons (literally) of usable material permanently out of reach? If we're going to go through all the effort to put it in space, lets either dump it at a Lagrange point or, if having it in a free orbit scares you still, pick a crater on the moon, no one is going to care about moon rocks getting even more radiation.
 
2010-06-02 11:25:19 AM
Subby hit the nail on the head with that one.
 
2010-06-02 11:56:07 AM
BssGuitarist: One thing I think we can all agree on is that we need to start more seriously promoting energy efficiency and conservation policies and technologies. How do we start moving towards ending these arguments about energy? Use less of it.

That's actually kind of the point of that graph. "Negawatts" are far less costly to produce than megawatts.

And, by reducing energy use, you make other technologies more feasible.

The answer isn't to go all in on one method of power generation to replace fossil fuels--It's to create a diversified portfolio of distributed generation linked with a smart grid. That way, no one shortage can knock the system out, and transmission losses are reduced, leveraging the efficiencies in production.

Sylver Dragon: Right now it's waste which is annoying to reprocess or could be burned in an IFR type reactor. However, once we run ourselves out of coal or oil, or the will to use either, we are going to need some sort of base load power. Our choices are going to be either nuclear or geothermal.

A differing view of the Base Load 'Fallacy'
 
2010-06-02 12:03:25 PM
dbrunker: There is supposed to be work going on to design Generation 4 reactors so maybe we'll get something nice like walk-away-safe, thorium reactors that environmentalists will allow to be built without too big a fight.

The little I know about those, they seem very promising.
 
2010-06-02 12:07:52 PM
Skleenar: Dianetics for Dummies: That aside, I feel like quite honestly people really don't understand the nature of Chernobyl as well as they should. The reason Chernobyl failed was because the reactor was not built up to proper code and had corners cut. History tells us what happens when you cut corners, I'm looking at you Transocean.

I would think Transocean and Chernobyl would teach you another lesson from history:

People cut corners. Even when it seems foolishly and staggeringly dangerous to do so.

Asa Phelps: We can build better nuclear power reactors than the ones we built 40 years ago. But nobody will let that happen.

Sure. But that doesn't really address the issues brought out in this article.

Daedalus27: Ultimately we need a secure storage site for our waste. It is a shame Yucca Mountian was torpedoed as that appeared to be the best suited site we are going to find in the US (low water table, seismically and volcanically stable, far from population but close to transportaion). We can reduce the levels with a breeder reactor, but even that has unusable byproducts that must be delt with. The sooner we become serious about a solution, the better so nuclear power can become more of a provider of our electrical needs to reduce CO2 (regardless if your feelings on global warming, transitioning from the fossil fuels will need to happen).

Nuclear power is just about one of the least effective means we have to reduce CO2 emissions, on a cost per avoided ton basis.



You assume everyone cares about reducing C02 emissions. I'm more concerned w/ putting toxic chemicals into the water (Horizon spill for one) and ground pollution than I am whack job global warming theories. I've taken the liberty of assuming that is why your worried about C02 emissions.
 
2010-06-02 12:08:25 PM
dbrunker: They were going to put the waste in a salt mine in New Mexico where the salt hadn't been disturbed by water or earthquakes for thirty million years. Then someone started saying how they didn't want their state (NM) to be America's nuclear landfill and the project was canceled.

I believe that's incorrect.

Link (new window)
 
2010-06-02 12:15:18 PM
Seems to me we dug it out of the ground somewhere. If it was not hurting anyone there, why not just put it back?

When a Uranium mine is fully mined out, use it as a place to put the waste.

Am I missing something?
 
2010-06-02 12:15:31 PM
ez2plezy: You assume everyone cares about reducing C02 emissions. I'm more concerned w/ putting toxic chemicals into the water (Horizon spill for one) and ground pollution than I am whack job global warming theories. I've taken the liberty of assuming that is why your worried about C02 emissions.

Why does it matter what the motivation for my concerns is? I don't think you are implying that we don't need to look for alternatives to petroleum.

I think you're living in a fantasy world denying AGW. You think I am believing in it. Whatever. We still have a problem with our reliance on fossil fuels.
 
2010-06-02 12:17:21 PM
ez2plezy: Nuclear power is just about one of the least effective means we have to reduce CO2 emissions, on a cost per avoided ton basis.

I would like to see the statistical data that backs up this claim. On a long term basis (10+ years) nuclear is about the same as coal in terms of cost, and has zero greenhouse gas emissions (unless you're one of those wackos worried about water vapor)

Also, hockeyfarker WIPP has been in successful operation for years, it's a pretty cool place, my boss used to work there.

/Research Reactor Operator
 
2010-06-02 12:19:28 PM
mdking09: /Research Reactor Operator

that would be a pretty cool job.
 
2010-06-02 12:20:04 PM
hitlersbrain: Seems to me we dug it out of the ground somewhere. If it was not hurting anyone there, why not just put it back?

When a Uranium mine is fully mined out, use it as a place to put the waste.

Am I missing something?




when uranium undergoes fission it breaks down into several different isotopes which are highly radioactive for the most part. The good news is that most of these can be put back into a fast reactor with the plutonium and remaining uranium fuel and be converted into isotopes with much shorter half-lives and are dangerous for a much shorter period of time (hundreds of years vs thousands)
 
2010-06-02 12:29:19 PM
tinfoil-hat maggie: Asa Phelps: Here's the really stupid part.

Most of our reactors were constructed for the purpose of producing fissile material for the nuclear arms race. This was no secret, but at the time, information didn't get around as easily as it does now.

If you were anti-nuclear-war, that meant that you were anti-nuclear-power. There were no two ways about it - all of our commercial nuclear power plants in the early days were designed and built to make material for bombs.

England, France, South Africa, and North Korea all did the same thing, and we accuse Iran of having the same idea.

But arguing against national defense is always a weak position in political debate in the US.

So, much the same way that tree-huggers pretend to want to save the spotted owls when what they really want to save is the wilderness, the anti-nuclear-bombs movement had to shape their argument as an anti-nuclear-pollution argument.

The accidents at 3 mile island and chernobyl cemented the situation, and many of the current followers of the anti-nuclear-power line are unaware that it started out as an anti-nuclear-bombs ruse.

We can build better nuclear power reactors than the ones we built 40 years ago. But nobody will let that happen.

Wow, I sorta thought every one knew it was mostly about the weapons side of the equation. Of course there is the anti corporate side coming up such as with BP. It becomes not can Nuke plants be run safely but will they be, and for how long?
Also what happens when they need to be decommissioned due to age?

I know we need to us this source for our future and am not against it. I would like us to do it right though.

/Sorry TL/DR


I have drifted forwards and backwards on the issue of new nuclear power - currently my thinking is that lots of alternative energy sources are rapidly being developed, so investing in nuclear is probably a bad idea at this point - because if the price of electricity drops down quite a lot, which is certainly feasible if some of the many new technologies pan out at large enough scales, then you end up with bankrupt or badly run nuclear facilities which will no longer be able to afford to keep talented engineers or maintain high levels of safety as corners will need to be cut.
 
2010-06-02 12:33:23 PM
Skleenar: A differing view of the Base Load 'Fallacy'

Definitely an interesting read, I will withdraw the claim that nuclear will be required for base power.
 
2010-06-02 01:17:57 PM
Sylver Dragon: Skleenar: A differing view of the Base Load 'Fallacy'

This paper is full of holes and provides little data to back up it's claims. Yes, it cites several sources but provides little actual data, just claims.

Overseas, some base-load power stations are nuclear. They produce little pollution during normal operation, but much pollution (including carbon dioxide emissions) from mining, enrichment, plant construction and decommissioning, reprocessing and waste management. They also increase the risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons and have the capacity for rare but catastrophic accidents

this paragraph alone contains several contradiction: reprocessing eliminates mining, enrichment, and (mostly) waste management. Also, the reason these processes 'produce' pollution is because they use large amounts of electricity (80% of which is currently coal produced) this is also a self eliminating problem.

The construction and decommissioning CO2 emissions of nuke plants are negligible compared to every day coal emissions. handy graph on page 3 (new window)

Biomass and gas are laughable as a solution because they still require combustion of carbon which releases CO2. Burning is burning no matter what you call it.

As for increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation, this is true enough in a conceptual sense, but in terms of actual documented cases there have been few to none. France has had a complete fuel cycle and reprocesses all of their nuclear fuel (technology the US invented then banned)since the 1970's and they have not had one single problem with theft of plutonium.

Nuclear accidents are misunderstood to say the least. A Chernobyl type accident can never happen in the United States. This is not do to 'fail safes' or 'redundancy' but the engineering of the fuel itself Google Temperature Coefficient of Reactivity. Look at TMI, same story, fuel melted. Except no one was hurt, no dangerous radiation was released.

Also the sources this article cites all agree with this point of view, and the PhD by his name doesn't necessarily mean anything other than that he's a hard worker. This article = not science.
 
2010-06-02 01:24:33 PM
About the 'shoot it into the sun' bit.

Earth is near the edge of the sun's gravity well
(There are illustrations showing it shaped like a funnel)
so it would take more energy to deorbit anything
into the photosphere than to send it out of the solar system.
 
2010-06-02 01:29:53 PM
this is not due to*

all the sources agree with his point of view*
 
2010-06-02 02:18:31 PM
Ooh ooh I know...lets sell it to the north koreans....they look trustworthy.
 
2010-06-02 02:24:41 PM
Sylver Dragon: Skleenar: A differing view of the Base Load 'Fallacy'

Definitely an interesting read, I will withdraw the claim that nuclear will be required for base power.


you're a pretty unskeptical guy.

personally I wanna know what kind of "bio-energy" is gonna help replace baseload power. monkeys on bicycle generators? we have to look at every option!
 
2010-06-02 02:34:14 PM
hockeyfarker: personally I wanna know what kind of "bio-energy" is gonna help replace baseload power. monkeys on bicycle generators? we have to look at every option!

bio energy typically refers to bio-diesel or other renewable carbon based fuels burned for energy. Renewable: yes. Clean: not so much
 
2010-06-02 02:52:49 PM
I demand monkeys on bicycle generators.
 
2010-06-02 03:29:42 PM
Skleenar:
A differing view of the Base Load 'Fallacy'


Wow, an anti-nuke group says that nukes aren't worth it. I'm supposed to be convinced by their wharrgarbl?
 
2010-06-02 03:48:59 PM
mdking09: There are 31 countries with nuclear power technology, 30 of them reprocess.. any guesses which one doesn't?



sunshineanddesign.files.wordpress.com

Why would one bury plutonium when that's where you have to get it from in the first place?

/stupid idea is stupid
 
2010-06-02 03:54:04 PM
FTGodWin: Why would one bury plutonium when that's where you have to get it from in the first place?

Though I agree with you for other reasons, I feel compelled to point out that plutonium is man made.. it is not a naturally occurring element
 
2010-06-02 03:56:09 PM
Because recycling is good except when it's nuclear fuel, apparently. Forget even the plutonium, the unused uranium alone is worth recovering.

It's pretty sad when even the French are better than you at something.
 
2010-06-02 03:58:40 PM
mdking09: FTGodWin: Why would one bury plutonium when that's where you have to get it from in the first place?

Though I agree with you for other reasons, I feel compelled to point out that plutonium is man made.. it is not a naturally occurring element


It's moleman made. They live underground. Keep up.
 
2010-06-02 04:43:37 PM
mdking09: This paper is full of holes and provides little data to back up it's claims. Yes, it cites several sources but provides little actual data, just claims.

Honestly, while I wasn't impressed with the paper, it was enough that I wasn't willing to sit here and fight for the position. It's just not worth the trouble when the main point I was arguing was that tossing nuclear waste into the sun is dumb; and that will still stand even if nuclear wasn't necessary for base-line power.

mdking09: Biomass and gas are laughable as a solution because they still require combustion of carbon which releases CO2. Burning is burning no matter what you call it.

In defense of Biomass generation:
1. Assuming that the mass being burned is from some sort of short life-cycle crop the carbon cycle for it is short. Any carbon put into the atmosphere by the burning would be sequestered again fairly quickly by the next generation fuel crops.
2. If the fuel crop is the waste product of a normal food crop or industrial crop, this should result in a net sequestration since the food or useful part of the crop would not be burned during each cycle, so more carbon is stored by the growing plant than is released by burning the non-useful part.

Of course, as the POST paper you link to points out, the carbon footprint of maintaining the crop is non-trivial. Which impacts the carbon footprint of this type of generation. There is also an open question on this use for arable land. We already have problems with rain forests being cut down to plant food crops, what happens when our food and energy needs are competing for useful land?

To be honest, I am a bit more hopeful about biofuels such as algal green crude. Than I am about direct biomass burning. But, in the end, our current system of energy generation is a mix of solutions, I expect that we will just change that mix rather than homogenize. I also expect that nuclear will come out as a big winner when it comes to base-line power. While the other paper may be right that we could use all wind for base-line generation, given enough open land with good wind and gas-turbines for backup, I still expect nuclear to win in the end due to reliability and land use.

mdking09: As for increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation, this is true enough in a conceptual sense, but in terms of actual documented cases there have been few to none.

Ya, this has always seemed one of those bullshiat, technically true but entirely impracticable complaints. Yes, with enough time, effort and luck some fissile material could be diverted for nefarious deeds. However, potassium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel is far easier to obtain, move and use. And it makes a pretty good boom. Also, in the US, one should hardly worry about the US Government diverting fissile material for bomb manufacture and research; they don't need to. We have plenty of nukes laying about collecting dust and soaking up money to watch and maintain as it is, why in the world would we make more?

hockeyfarker: personally I wanna know what kind of "bio-energy" is gonna help replace baseload power.

I've read enough on switchgrass as biomass among others, bioethanol from sugarcane (Brazil is big on this), and algal biofuels that I'm willing to let that question go.
Granted, given the time, I'd like to dig into the other papers behind the one he cited to see how they came up with:
(for example, 1300 turbines, each rated at 2 MW), the area of land actually occupied by the wind turbines and access roads is only 5-19 square km, depending upon wind speed.

But, having personally seen wind farms at work in Southern California (The Palm Springs area is actually kinda cool with all the turbines out there) I could just about picture this in my head.

It's one thing to be skeptical, it's another to just be downright obtuse. And, lacking good refutation at the time, I saw no point in fighting for the point.
 
2010-06-02 04:57:26 PM
I'm confused, are you arguing with me or agreeing with me?

I wasn't directing my comment at you, but at the guy who posted the paper/the paper itself.

if you are arguing: Wharrgarbl!!!
if you are agreeing: sweet!

Seriously though, Biomass does have a lot of problems (the biggest of which you named competing food/energy land). I'm not convinced though that the amount of CO2 absorbed by the plants is > then amount produced from burning the bio-diesel/whatever else. but I don't know that much about it.
My area of expertise is in nuclear, I operate a reactor and have a pretty good amount of training/learning under my belt, so I know firsthand how safe, reliable, and clean the technology really is.
 
2010-06-02 06:21:55 PM
Sylver Dragon: I've read enough on switchgrass as biomass among others, bioethanol from sugarcane (Brazil is big on this), and algal biofuels that I'm willing to let that question go.

I thought the argument against bioethanol was that it requires more energy to grow it than it produces. and that link seems to only talk about using it in cars or machinery, not as baseload power production.
 
2010-06-02 06:50:09 PM
i46.tinypic.com
 
2010-06-02 11:06:24 PM
Skleenar: Nuclear power is just about one of the least effective means we have to reduce CO2 emissions, on a cost per avoided ton basis.
As has been pointed out, that chart shows nothing of carbon effects (as you claim), It also does not show any time scale of that capital, nor does it indicate the fuel consumption per year, maintaining those power plants, etc. Hmmn, There are major warning signs that the producer of that chart has an agenda and an axe they are grinding.
 
2010-06-02 11:31:01 PM
My D-Bag brother in law has been living with me for 5 years now. Pretty sure he is planning on dying of old age in my guest room.

/fark!!
 
2010-06-02 11:42:15 PM
hockeyfarker: I believe that's incorrect.

Yes, you're right. I forgot all about that. I was going on the memory of having been there in 1994. I still have a little piece of salt from the mine. Looks like I was low on my memory of how long the mine was stable too: it wasn't 30 million, it was a quarter of a billion.
 
2010-06-03 01:09:16 AM
BuckTurgidson: pecos

What I saw was 1997 - ban still in place and nobody knows what to do with the waste - 1977 -WTF?
 
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