What do you do with the waste? – Kirk Sorensen’s answers

Gordon McDowell, the film maker who produced Thorium Remix, has released some additional mixes of material gathered for that production effort. One in particular is aimed at those people whose main concern about using nuclear energy is the often repeated question “What do you do with the waste.”

Many people who ask that question think that it is a trump card that should end all conversation and let them win the hand. I used to play bridge and enjoyed it when I could “no trump” a smug contestant who thought he had a winner. Kirk’s discussion below is one example of how that can be done in the nuclear energy field.

My friends who like the Integral Fast Reactor have another answer. I am pretty certain there are dozens of other good answers to the question – the primary obstacle to implementing them comes from the nefarious forces that LIKE raising (artificial) barriers to the use of nuclear energy.


On another note, I want to point to a story published in the evening of October 12, 2011 on the Wall Street Journal web site titled WSJ: Fluor Buys Stake In Reactor Maker NuScale Energy. I am happy to see that NuScale has found a suitable, deep pockets investor with a lot of nuclear plant engineering and construction experience.


One more short note. Jay Hancock, a writer for the Baltimore Sun, has taken note of some of the work published on Atomic Insights regarding Exelon’s decision to destroy the Zion Nuclear power station rather than allowing it to compete against existing power plants to increase the supply and decrease the price of electricity.

On October 8, 2011, Hancock published a column titled State should pull plug on Constellation-Exelon deal that explored whether or not it would be beneficial for Marylanders to allow a company like Exelon to own a dominant number of electrical power generation facilities in the state.

One of the pieces of evidence that has convinced Hancock to oppose the proposed merger is the way that Exelon has acted with regard to the Zion nuclear station. He recognizes that the company has adequately demonstrated a history of using market power to drive up prices and profits at the expense of customer interests.

Additional reading related to Exelon bear hug attempt:

EDF Asks Maryland Regulators To Block Exelon-Constellation Merger

About Rod Adams

7 Responses to “What do you do with the waste? – Kirk Sorensen’s answers”

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  1. Joel Riddle says:

    That Fluor/NuScale news is very interesting. That development represents a serious commitment and makes it appear that they may be the most likely candidate to join the Bechtel/B&W mPower as one of the 2 first SMRs to get licensed.

    I haven’t heard anything about the Westinghouse SMR in quite a long time. That was announced pre-Fukushima, if I remember correctly. Maybe they’ve gone silent on it for the time being to wait on the hysteria to fizzle out.

    • Paul Lindsey says:

      I hope that no one in the nuclear power field is “waiting on the hysteria to fizzle out”, because taht just feeds the anti-nuclear crowd. Trying to fly below the radar gets interpreted as having something to hide.

      IMO, the SMR developers need to take the lead by licensing & then building a turnkey power plant that is then sold/leased to a power company. Until that happens, we’re just stuck in a do-loop where the utilities don’t want to fund anything until it is proven and the developers won’t build it until a utility says that they want to buy it.

      • Joel Riddle says:

        I simply meant that perhaps they’re being strategic with the timing of their hype/publicity, not that they’d be slowing down the actual development effort.

        Also, they’ve still got the AP-1000 to be backing for now and may not want to seem to have diverted any attention from that design, especially since it seems to be the Gen III design presently in the best shape for slightly widespread adoption.

  2. Andrew Jaremko says:

    Rod – thanks again. I finished watching the LFTR in 5 minutes documentary from yesterday’s post and IMO it can be the basis for a lot of things; Gordon McDowall at thoriumremix has opened everything up for remixing by anyone who wants to.

    The reason I say “basis” is that normally there’s more to say, and things that Kirk didn’t say. One important addition to the “Waste” remix is that actinides in solid fuel reactor spent fuel can provide the startup fissile inventory for LFTRs. The paper Optimized Transition from the Reactors of Second and Third Generations to the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor discusses this and suggests an optimum strategy for getting the breeding going. We’ll turn “waste” into gold (well, a revenue stream anyway) and get rid of another objection.

    Warning to anyone wanting to add material to the remixes: you have to match Kirks passion and intensity to make new segments fit in. Now there’s a challenge!

    Rod – I was delighted to see you in the LFTR in 5 Minutes video in the role of conspiracy unmasker. Keep slugging!

  3. Andy Dawson says:

    I’m not somewhere I can view the video, but I’m assuming it’s not unrelated to earlier material from Kirk Sorenson on the same topic.

    All of which is valid, but omits a major point – there’s nothing unique about this potential in the context of MSRS as compared to conventional or fast types of reactor. It’s even arguable that fast reactors, using on-site pyroprocessing will be better at managing actinide waste.

    The other, and crucial issue is that reprocessing – extraction of fission products and bred fuel – essentially has to take place in real-time on MSRs, especially if they’re to breed fuel. Conventional and fast designs can also be part of a reprocessing cycle; the essential difference is they’re not directly couple to it.

    So far as I understand, in an MSR design, if any major system of the integral reprocessing function became unavailable, it would be necessary to close down the plant within a relatively short period – hours, or at very most a few days. So far as I’m aware most reprocessing plant worldwide has much the same experience as UK – that availability levels are problematic, and that radiation exposure issues make maintenance difficult, meaning outages can be extended. I’ve yet to see anything to convince me that the radio-chemical processing side of MSR plant would be different.

    Further, you have to handle the full spectrum of fission products at something close to the time of their generation – meaning there is no time to allow extremely active short live products to decay before handling.

    By contrast, IFR or BREST fuel would typically have a years dwell before being decanned and reprocessed, and it’s standard UK and French practice to allow a decade or more before reprocessing. That radically reduces the problem of operator exposures, and the handling of highly active gaseous fission products like Xenon and Krypton.

  4. Daniel says:

    Let us not forget the potential of transmutation and the progress of science. Remember that Tc 99 can be mutated to harmless Tc 100 in a few minutes!

  5. Jagdish says:

    Molten Chloride Fast Reactor, also described as Simplified Waste Digester by Kirk in his Forbes blogs, is, in my opinion, the best solution. It is a combination of IFR philosophy and MSR, of which LFTR is another example.

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