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16 Comments

  1. The reusable nuclear fuel should be listed as an asset versus a liability; should help out with the balance sheet for the number crunchers. Also, the RNF should be tax free and/or the site owners should receive money for its storage instead of paying for a mythical, ill-conceived geological storage scheme.

    1. I’m not its not that simple. Its only an asset if there’s a use for it. RNF may be reusable, but thus far this country has not licensed any reactors that can actually use it. I hope that changes Real Soon, but it hasn’t yet. Also, an asset can be taxed, so given the time frame of storage in absence of fast reactors, the assessment for tax purposes would have to be pretty low. I’m not certain everyone would see it that way. Storing the stuff is cheap but not free: security is required, possible maintenance, and eventual re-casking should we delay fast reactors that long. Similar costs will accrue for off-site storage. In that sense RNF is a real liability.

      1. You don’t need a fast reactor to re-use it.
        For about 20 years, the Canadians and South Koreans have been looking at “DUPIC” fuel for CANDU reactors. There are no technical hurdles, as I understand.

        1. Perhaps. DUPIC can reduce waste volumes by 70%, which is not insignificant. But to reduce the long-term sequestration target down to the oft-desired 300 – 500 year range still requires annihilation of essentially all trans-uranic actinides, which comes back to fast reactors.

          1. Yes, Ed, I wholeheartedly agree.
            Still — I wonder how many CANDU reactors could be fueled with DUPIC (using existing spent, or “reusable” PWR — and perhaps BWR as well) over the next 20 years? That certainly would provide plenty of time to develop and deploy fast reactors.

          2. My take on the “how many CANDUs can be powered by American PWR SNF” question is “all of them”.  There’s more than enough to run every CANDU in Ontario, and probably the rest of the world.  We would not even stop the accumulation of inventory, just slow it down some.

            At ~1.8% fissiles, DUPIC fuel is pretty rich stuff for a CANDU.  What I’d like to know is if thorium elements could be inserted with the DUPIC to function as “breedable poison”, allowing the CANDU to both burn down LWR fuel and operate as a net breeder of thermal-spectrum fissiles.

            Maybe if I had time to catch up on energyfromthorium.com I’d have learned this already… unfortunately, reading expands to occupy all remaining time.

  2. Spent fuel is a valuable commodity potentially worth hundreds of trillions of dollars in clean energy production in current and next generation reactors. So there’s really no logical reason to simply throw it away!

    Marcel

    1. @JohnGalt

      I’d love to buy it, but the federal government declared that it has a monopoly on ownership of used nuclear fuel as part of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1983. Private companies are allowed to provide interim storage, but are not allowed to own the material and choose to apply technologies to make it valuable.

      An acquaintance of mine owns some currently valueless rocks under his family farm. He is prohibited by the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia from processing those rocks and extracting the 119 million pounds of uranium that they contain. Under a more reasonable legal framework, those rocks might be worth 5-20 billion dollars, depending on the future price of uranium.

      1. @JohnGalt

        Ever changing rules and businesses that can be made illegal with the stroke of a pen even after hundreds of millions of investment are not terribly attractive. That begs for changes in the law and applying principles like the takings clause. It does not mean that the material does not have value.

        I mentioned the uranium deposit because, like used fuel, it has been similarly made “valueless” by man-made laws not because there is not inherent natural value in concentrated forms of energy storage. Any law made by man can be changed by man.

      2. Rod,
        I read the section that (I think) you are talking about. 42 USC 10143:
        “Delivery, and acceptance by the Secretary, of any high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel for a repository constructed under this part shall constitute a transfer to the Secretary of title to such waste or spent fuel.”
        But that isn’t really all “used nuclear fuel”, right?
        There might be some other provision of US law that covers irradiated fuel that has yet to be delivered and accepted by the Secretary, but from what I’ve read of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, such SNF is not titled to the federal government. It matters, of course, for reactor designs that would further use the fuel.

  3. I think that the time to reuse the used fuel is now. Simpler separation methods should be developed to recover actinides from used fuel, and separate uranium from higher elements like plutonium. Pyro-processing may be more useful.
    Chlorides/Fluorides should be burnt in unmoderated MSR using supercritical steam or CO2 as coolant.

  4. Reusable nuclear fuel is somewhat misleading in engineering space because this suggests you can immediately load it into a reactor and use it again. We need another term which accurately reflects the value of the fuel from the public viewpoint but is also accurate to more “literal” engineers. The new name for used fuel has to be widely acceptable to engineers or it will never reach common use.
    I suggest the term “Resource Fuel” which suggests that the fuel can be mined and refabricated for future use. However, I am open to suggestions… I’m looking for something catchier. If someone comes up with a good idea, I’ll push for adoption of the term in my fast reactor work.

  5. I propose the term “once through nuclear fuel”, but I also like reusable fuel. Kudos on trying to frame the debate.

  6. Once the enviros become pro-nuke, it will be called “nuclear compost”. Perhaps we should start calling it that now.

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