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4 Comments

  1. Hi Rod ….

    I just listened to Atomic SHOW 18. I learned something new – Wigner energy. Thanks.

    The discussion about Europe was useful. I think another useful topic would be a review of developments in Canada, particularly since Canada may have a direct impact on the USA policies and practices. It would be interesting to hear about what the USA could do to promote nuclear energy development in Canada – does the USA want CANDU as a competitor? Lots of issues.

    The most interesting point raised in your show #18 was the fact that the nuclear industry is not moving ahead. The window is closing and no one seems to be in a hurry to get something through it. The window is closing in several ways – work force aging, global heating increasing, world population declining, cultural change to religious base that does not value electrical energy, etc.

    The huge problem in Ontario now is regulatory streamlining. Ontario wants to build two piddly little reactors. To do this we are going to have to suffer through six years of Greaanpeace farce as we try to get three or four levels of government in agreement. What a tedious process. There must be some way out of here.

  2. Rod & Shane:

    First off, thanks for doing this podcast. I appreciate the discussions about the challenges and opportunities for nuclear power generators.

    One of the standard arguments against nuclear power is storing the waste products. (Which is something we ignore for most other fuel sources, which is why you can see Siberian well flares from space, and why Pennsylvania has 2,500 miles of contaminated streams from coal mine runoff. But I digress.)

    What does France – the “poster child for nuclear power” do with their waste? I did some quick research and it seems that they have great solutions for low-level waste, but have not been able to deal with the high-level waste. Do you have a sense of the current state of waste disposal in Europe, France in particular?

    Waste disposal is, for me, the stopper on a lot of possible energy source, and the mysterious public image of nuclear power makes it that much harder to make waste disposal acceptable. People understand an acidic, ugly, toxic ball of goo in their neighborhood, even if it will kill them much quicker than a steel and concrete cask that makes a Geiger counter click.

    tc>

  3. Hello Rod & Shane. I found your podcasts via a post about nuclear energy on worldchanging. Nice to see there’s some serious debate going on about the issues of nuclear energy without falling into standard rhetoric.

    tc,

    Actually France is actually quite far with a solution to it’s high-level waste. In the past decade the France nuclaer energy agency has done an extensive research program on transmutation & partitioning (P&T). That project has now been completed and is now up for review.

    P&T basically means that you seperate and recycle the radioactive materials (plutonium) from the spent nuclear fuel and use transmutation to change minor (but highly radioactive) elements to elements that are less radioactive. The radiation of of the remaining nuclear waste can be reduced by a factor of hundred to a thousand. It would still be radioactive but only for the first 100-1000 years after which it would start to fall back to the level of normal uranium. That’s a significant improvement over the 100.000-1000.000 years you normally hear about.

    The theory itself is sound, the real challenges are technological and economical. Spent nuclear fuel has to be reprocessed if you want to do it. There are several ways to but P&T does make the most sense from an economic viewpoint if you switch over to modern alternative fuel cycles and modern reactors. So ironically (at least for the anti nuclear lobby) to get rid of high level nuclear waste in an economical way you need to invest in a new generation of nuclear powerplants.

    The report about P&T in France can be found here:

    http://www.nea.fr/html/ndd/reports/2006/nea6210-french-research.pdf

    Might be a good idea to do a special about Partition & Transmutation sometime. You don’t really hear much about it, and certainly not from the antinuclear lobby.

    Good luck with your further podcasts,

    CapTVK

  4. Randal, Tom and CapTV:

    Thank you for your supportive comments. Randal – good idea about a Canadian focused show. We are now planning that one for show number 19. It should be up in a few days. You ask – we deliver.

    Tom – CapTV has provided some good information about the strategies used by the French to handle byproduct materials. My basic answer to the “waste” problem is to stop thinking about it as waste, but consider it to be raw material. The fact that we have not yet “done” anything with it is good – we have carefully kept it segregated from the environment and stored it in monitored locations. When we are ready to use it, it will be there. There are known ways to use it already, but the recycled material is not quite competitive with virgin materials from mines just yet. That is okay, the material is very concentrated and does not require much storage space. It has also never hurt anyone.

    Here is a quick story about how I came about my attitude. I spent a few years as the General Manager for a small plastic product manufacturer. The owner was a very smart man who had earned his education by doing things. He had dropped out of high school to help support his family and by the time he was 18, he was actually his mother’s supervisor at work.

    One way that he had built his company was to recognize that stuff that other people were trying to get rid of had real value. When I joined the firm, I noticed that there were several tightly sealed barrels of what looked to me like waste plastic – it was pink, fluffy regrind. (I peaked.) Several times over the course of the next year, I asked him if I could dispose of the material, but he said convinced me that it was not taking up much space and might be useful to us someday.

    Eventually we received an order that required a certain kind of plastic in black. Jim pointed to the barrels and told me they were going to be our initial batch. He knew exactly what kind of plastic was in the barrels and knew that it was possible to turn almost any color – except white – into black with the addition of some cheap colorant.

    That first order for that new product line sold for about $5,000 and required just a few hours of labor and machine time. Pretty good return for storing a few barrels of plastic, especially since Jim knew where to get more to support future production. Of course, he never told his supplier how valuable the finished products were; he implied that he was just helping to take care of a waste disposal problem.