South Australian senator believes there's value in "nuclear waste" 1


  1. It’s refreshing to see a political leader lead rather than be satisfied to attempt to stand out in front of ignorance.

    I want everyone to realize the basic truth that we can all benefit from the quadrillions of BTUs possible through the careful manipulation of common minerals, and that sunshine and breezes, while nice, will not ever save lives by replacing oil, gas, and other carbon sources.

  2. Per the writeup, Sean Edwards appears to be a forward thinking leader.

    I am not an Australian. I’ve never even seen a live kangaroo. However, I don’t think you need to live there to grasp the enormous potential of his idea. The state to the West of South Australia is Western Australia (great practical names for states). I believe this is the part of the world that produces the most iron ore. Iron ore mines use a great deal of electricity. If the Australians can get foreign countries to pay for some of the infrastructure to generate inexpensive electricity, this would give their mining industry a competitive advantage.

    Just a little more thinking allows one to see that this same electricity could be used to produce an added valued product from the ore (steel) rather than just selling raw ore. This would further enrich the coffers of Australia. It’s like an almost free tax cut priming the pump of their economy.

  3. Rod, I appreciate the not-just-interview-with-Rod stuff you’ve been including in your podcast feed. Have to drive a car a lot… great to have stuff like this funneled into an easy-to-listen podcast format.

  4. Receiving used fuel from other countries is logical only if reprocessed. UK are just storing the recovered RG plutonium. The French are using it as MOX in their LWRs. Only Russia, India and China expect to use it in fast breeders. For Australia, a non-nuclear power entity, jumping to next step would be a radical action.
    The Australia could also start with advanced pyro-processing as they do not plan to use plutonium for weapons. Uranium, economically recovered as chloride distillate will leave limited quantity to be electrolysed for plutonium with transuranics. If the Australians success-fully develop fast MSR to directly use the chlorides and fluorides in the reactors, they could earn license fees on the most economical reactors.

  5. Hmmmm………..

    I see Senator Edwards is member of the “Liberal Party of Australia”. Don’t tell loanes (paul primivera), he’s liable to have a stroke upon reading such news.

    OMG, a pagan leftee has escaped from his box!

    1. The political terminology used in the United States is somewhat unusual. In Europe (and, I would suspect, Australia as well), the adjective “Liberal” has a meaning akin to “Libertarian” in the United States. The difference goes back about 100 years. The “Progressives” had pretty much wrecked their brand (the “starter” Progressive policies such as limiting the hours worked in a week had been accomplished and the Progressives had moved on to other things like promoting eugenics), so they started calling themselves “Liberals.”

    2. “Liberals” are Conservatives here. The other party, “Labor” (they don’t use the UK English spelling) are also conservatives, though a little less so. Our Greens are possibly the most progressive, but guess what they don’t like.

  6. So only 5% of the nuclear fuel is spent before it is replaced? I always thought nuclear was so efficient. Imagine filling your SUV for a One hundred dollars then driving 5% of your way to Grandmas, stopping and removing 95% of the remaining fuel from your car, and storing it to be used sometine later after it gets re processed sometime 40 or 50 years in the future.. Or how about burning just the bark off your log in a fireplace on a cold winter night. Taking the hot log out then having to re process the log. Get it back in 40 years. Big stack of wood to bring in.

    Are you kidding me, this is the most inefficient form energy production ever. This is a giant fraud. There is 95% waste? All that mining and milling and processing, and all the money for all that, and the best this industry can do is 95% waste? This form of energy is so toxic that after only 5% of the fuel is used, the poisons produced by fission render the remaining 95% useless until they can get the toxins out. Meanwhile they have to keep it under constant controlled conditions, underwater and everything, forever. This is crazy.

    This is the fraud of our lifetime. Then you have to deal with this waste. Imagine a spent fuel pool ever loosing its cooling, and then the remaining 95% goes up into the air. No wonder everything is so messed up after Fukushima. Tepco reported to the IAEA on Mar 15 2011 that there was a fire in pool number 4 and that it was releasing radiation directly to the air. So if that fuel still had 95% of its initial potential, and was on fire on Mar 15 2011, can you explain what that would mean.
    Number 3 blew sky high, so I am assuming that spent fuel released as well. Numbers 1 and 2 both blew up. What was the status of those pools.

    This changes everything. This article has opened my eyes. I was totally unaware of this. I am in an utter state of shock.

    1. @In an utter state of shock

      Thank you for visiting Atomic Insights and sharing your thoughts and questions. I hope you stick around for the answers and for additional discussion – especially if you lose the chip on your shoulder.

      Yes – using the 2nd generation technology that was developed within 15-20 years after humans first recognized that they could create a fission chain reaction and release the densely packed heat energy from certain atomic nuclei, we only release about 5% of the initial potential energy of a manufactured fuel element. The real story is a bit worse, we really only release about 0.5% of the energy available in mined natural uranium because our reactors depend mainly on the U-235 isotope. The concentration of that isotope in natural uranium is just 0.7%.

      Your analogy with regard to gasoline and burning wood is accurate from an energy point of view, but not from a mass point of view. Uranium has about 2 MILLION times as much potential energy as gasoline and about 4-5 MILLION times as much potential energy as wood. Therefore, even with the abysmal utilization some people are satisfied with achieving, the amount of fuel left behind as “waste” is about 1/10,000 – 1/30,000 as much as it would be if reactors used chemical fuels.

      A reactor large enough to power a city of 1,000,000 people only produces enough waste in 18 months to fill three dry cask storage containers – that’s about 30 tons worth of used fuel assemblies. Storing those containers takes about 3 parking spaces worth of space on a concrete pad. In contrast, a similarly sized coal plant produces about 7-9 million tons of gaseous waste products every 18 months and about a million tons of solid waste products.

      Part of the subject of this post, however, is that we know how to do better and we know how to recycle the remaining material into useful fuel. So far, only modest efforts have been made in most nuclear capable countries because recycling is a process that needs to be practiced so that we can improve on our techniques. It will cost a bit more at first compared to the “once through” fuel cycle, but it is worth the effort. Costs will come down if regulations are sensible and aimed at protecting humans from harm as well as providing adequate protection for our shared environment.

      Your understanding of what actually happened at Fukushima is not correct. There was no damage to fuel in spent fuel pools. The reactors did not “blow sky high,” the secondary containment buildings in units 1, 3 and 4 experienced an explosive build up of hydrogen gas because the operators were trying to keep them completely sealed. That hydrogen ignited and blew the tops of the lightly constructed buildings but did not damage the primary containment vessels. None of the used fuel was involved in the explosion.

      1. Hi Rod,
        Thanks for the all in depth answers.

        My understanding of Fukushima comes mainly from reading the reports and public documents from Tepco, and the IAEA, and from scientific studies relating to Chernolbyl,
        and of course from some of the excellent material you provide.


    2. Tepco reported to the IAEA on Mar 15 2011 that there was a fire in pool number 4

      You must be getting your “information” from Arne Gundersen and Harvey Wasserman.  All the spent fuel has been removed from the Unit 4 fuel pool.  The fuel was essentially undamaged by the quake and aftermath, and there were no incidents.

      Tepco reported to the IAEA on Mar 15 2011 that there was a fire in pool number 4

      Contrary to the hysterical claims of fanatics like Gregory Jaczko, the Unit 4 fuel pool was never at any risk of fire and never remotely got dry.

      1. Hi Engineer-Poet, I should have included a citation and source link to support such a wild and crazy claim. I had to search a bit, but here is quote I was referring to.

        “Japanese authorities also today informed the IAEA at 04:50 CET that the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is on fire and radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.”

        There are just so many fanatical claims always being made about SFP 4, its hard sometimes to know what to believe. I’m going to stand by my comment. I have no reason to doubt this international organization, nor the Japanese authorities who promptly informed them of this.

        1. The source for the “fuel pool on fire” claim, so far as we can track it, is from the conference call notes of a staffer of Gregory Jaczko’s.  In other words, it came from an anti-nuclear activist looking for things of propaganda value and willing to take advantage of poor translations to invent his own “facts”.

          There was a fire at the fuel pool.  It was caused by ignition of an oil leak from a water pump.  No nuclear materials were involved.

          You’d think that evidence which conclusively proves such reports wrong would have some weight in your evaluation, 4 years after the fact.

    3. “So if that fuel still had 95% of its initial potential, and was on fire on Mar 15 2011, can you explain what that would mean.”

      NUCLEAR potential energy – which is released through application of neutron flux and sustained chain reaction. You fret over release of CHEMICAL potential energy, which a) is many orders of magnitude smaller per mass, b) was impossible to release from zircalloy-clad ceramic fuel submerged in water, which c) wasn’t on fire, and fears of it being so were opportunistically fanned by anti-nuclear fear mongers, drowning out the many voices of reason who were pointing out how impossible it was.

      “What was the status of those pools.”

      Same as the rest of the site – an expensive industrial accident that didn’t significantly endanger anyone.

      “I am in an utter state of shock.”

      As we say in Australia, you need a cuppa tea, a bex and a good lie down.

      Then come back to this site, use the search function and find out about nuclear from the professionals.

      1. @Oscar Archer

        I’m always interested in learning more about the slang used in other English-speaking countries. What is a “bex?” I can guess on the rest of your prescription.

        1. Ah, upon extensive research, my guess about what “bex” is was pretty good, not perfect. Alas, it was probably sent to delete bin for using a brand name that a Bayseian filter would associate with spam.

      2. Hi Oscar Archer
        Thanks for great advice. I had some tea and nice heady down, then I wondered to myself,

        “Self , (I knew it was me, I recognized the voice).. Why would Japanese authorities go and report to the IAEA at 04:50 CET on the 15 March 2011 that spent fuel storage pond was fire?”

        Just for the heck of it? That made no sense
        Because its routine to that? No, that didn’t seem right either.
        Maybe they were just playing fear monger tag? Never even heard of that before, but the tea was quite strong.

        I don’t know Oscar Archer, I have no idea why these nuclear authorities would go and report something like this to the IAEA. Weird, just weird i guess.

        Maybe some of the professionals can figure this out. I’m just repeating what I read from the IAEA. Here is the link and the quote.

        “Japanese authorities also today informed the IAEA at 04:50 CET that the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is on fire and radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.”

        I’m stumped.

        1. @In an utter state of shock

          In the midst of an event, there are often confused reports. Sometimes that can be attributed to the communications failures we all learned from playing the game of “telephone” in elementary school. That risk is enhanced during an international event where language barriers and harried translators play a role.

          If you read the reports about the successful evolution to remove the spent fuel from the Unit 4 pool, the only possible conclusion is that the report of a fire in the pool was simply incorrect. It cannot have happened if the removed fuel shows no signs of such an occurrence.


        2. I apologise for my patronising tone, and the bluntness of my reply.

          The sort of “cherry-picked” sentences from superseded old reports, such as what you referenced with undoubtedly good intentions, are exactly the sort of thing I and others see frequently from sites like Enenews, invariably without acknowledging subsequent investigation or the views of actual experts that say it’s wrong or impossible. My reply was unfairly framed in this perspective but meant no personal offense.

    4. Shockee, let’s channel that shock into some “back of the napkin” thoughts.

      Letting hydrogen atoms fall into a bond (chemical burning) releases about 10 units of energy. Well, cleaving a the nucleus of heavy atoms like thorium, uranium or plutonium (nuclear burning) releases about 200,000,000 of the same units. (I think in terms of electron-volts in this context, but you can use any you like). With that in mind, 5% utilization of a given number of heavy atoms is 1,000,000 times by nuclear what you get with chemical. This is not precise, just giving big number comparisons to show scale.

      It’s as if you filled your SUV with 100 gallons of nuclear gas, and could drive not fifty miles, but 50 MILLION miles (around the world 2000 times!) on it before you’re down to 95 gallons on the gauge. And as deference to one of Rod’s and my main advantages (though not for exactly the same reasons) here, your emissions are still in the tank and not put up in the atmosphere nor sitting in a pile on the ground. (Well, other than a miniscule amount of fission products and tritium).

      And it is policy (and other variations on the root of the word “policy”), not technology, that inhibits, nay prevents, the use of the other 95 gallons (maybe 85 to generously allow for losses in processing).

        1. Point, shmoint. Great, good or bad, it’s not a “point.”

          It’s everything, like the blessing of delayed neutrons. Are you a ‘bot? A paid shill? Rod playing evil advocate?

          1. @Reese

            “shock” is not me as “evil advocate,” but I detect that the person posting under that name has been trained in the kind of “debate club” rules that infect many liberal arts programs in our colleges and universities.

            Graduates of those programs often don’t believe there is any fixed set of facts or reality. If they can find what seems to be a “credible” source for a statement, they can feel free to assert a fact even if it is not actually true. Debate club judges are trained to award points as long as there is a good source; they are not compelled to determine the accuracy of the statement.

            My more balanced liberal arts/practical engineering training allows me to take advantage of the better aspects of each educational path. I know there is objective reality, and I also understand that there are human motives for ignoring or purposely submerging an understanding of that reality.

          2. @Rod,

            Yes, thank you for reminding me to not get hoodwinked by such tactics. They are empty and do nothing but “get my goat.” Must not let them get my goat, whatever that means. I’ll have some Bex and a lie down.

    5. “Tepco reported to the IAEA on Mar 15 2011 that there was a fire in pool number 4 and that it was releasing radiation directly to the air. So if that fuel still had 95% of its initial potential, and was on fire on Mar 15 2011, can you explain what that would mean.”

      You changed the report wording to say the fuel is on fire. Pool number 4 is a building, it was on fire. Nobody knows what TEPCO actually reported, it is an IAEA worded statement on the IAEA web page; possible translation glitch.

      “Can you explain what that would mean.” Yup, you can’t read or you have chosen to change the words for some reason. Did you read the report where TEPCO removed all the fuel from pool number 4 in about Nov, 1014, all totally undamaged? IAEA never reported fuel on fire, you just claim they did. I’m in an utter state of shock!

      1. @mjd
        I cited the source, provided the quote and the link to backup my comment. This is the international accepted standard used on all internet forums. I read the words as they were printed in black and white and changed nothing.

        Tepco has a public gallery with media briefings, images, and reports of their work. Of course I read the report, it was provided specifically for the public. If you have any questions about what or where a spent fuel pool is, go there. They have it all neatly organized there so the public can be informed and up to date.

        Nothing more to add.

        1. “So if that fuel still had 95% of its initial potential, and was on fire on Mar 15 2011,…”

          These are your words, not the report words. They are right there for everyone to see in your comment. The above quoted words from your comment are your addition to or interpretation of the IAEA report. TEPCO reported the building on fire, you interpreted the IAEA report to say the fuel is on fire and added that to your comment. And now you are denying you added those words!

          “I read the words as they were printed in black and white and changed nothing.”
          This is a false statement.

          “If you have any questions about what or where a spent fuel pool is, go there…”
          Thanks for your concern about my SFP knowledge, and where I can go to learn about them. But I already demonstrated my SPF knowledge to the NRC in 1977 when they issued me a Senior Reactor Operator license to operate a large commercial NPP. And I backed that up with a career as a licensed operator.

  7. “Bex.” Are those the bicuits I’ve tried that are basically shredded wheat? Or is it short for some sort of downer like Valium?

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts