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  1. SNF from LWR is certainly not valuable private property, but it is not an environmental liability either. At the moment reprocessing is not cheaper than fabricating new fuel, so the LWR fuel will continue to accumulate. I help load the SNF casks at a large site; they are overbuilt and source less than a millirem/hr on contact. The SNF will be safely stored in these canisters for hundreds of years and nobody will ever be affected. Busybodies make the SNF an issue. I recognize that the uranium/plutonium in LWR SNF can provide more energy if reprocessed; I simply don’t believe it is worth the effort and expense in the current climate. Only market conditions will ever enable reprocessing; the market isn’t ready yet. With the Japanese fleet offline, there is too much enrichment capacity (at the moment). Enrichment facilities cannot be shut down, so they re-enrich the old “tails”, which we left to them, in order to keep their centrifuges busy. In this way, enrichment facilities have become uranium mines. Every time we close a reactor, the fuel gets cheaper, and cheaper…

    1. TBH, LWR SNF isn’t valuable yet.  If there was a program to start a bunch of S-PRISMs as a response to climate change (and I’ve been seeing crazy weather associated with climate change for going on 4 months) the reactor-grade Pu in SNF would suddenly be a hot commodity.

      FWIW, a handful of S-PRISMs could light most of NYC and also supply all of the steam used in its district heating systems.  They would do this with OTOO 4 tons of heavy metal consumed per year.

      1. It would be nice to see some PRISM reactors built, although they are a little scary. It would take some [more] years of operations/refueling experience before these units could transition from labcoat and pocket-protector led operations to blue collar IBEW led operations. Also, physical security needs to be built into these plants from go; the current levels of security staffing at commercial LWRs, which were built as undefended industrial sites, is a very visible burden that hurts competitiveness. We must get the jarheads OUT of the next generation nuclear plant.

        Recently, I’ve been thinking that a logical step, if fuel ever become expensive, would be to push future PWRs more towards the Shippingport fuel/moderator ratio – to improve conversion and stretch the fuel. The reduced water inventory in the core would require reduced a reduced heat rate (thermohydraulic penalty) and the longer fuel lifetime would require adoption of a new platform that could incrementally increase discharge exposure or at least max allowable fluence (maybe lightbridge). Naturally, I am at a loss as to what forces could drive adoption of this, and I’m not convinced it is necessary. In nuclear we are confronted with what could be or could work all the time… This is just another example of one of the many different tacks that could be taken in the future, although I believe the excess jarhead issue needs to be addressed regardless of the direction nuclear takes.

  2. I’m currently involved in the latest ISFSI campaign at my plant. It blows my mind the amount of energy (thermal heat) that these bundles still contain. Its also incredible that we can take 68 bundles, place them in a canister, then into a shield cask that is indestructible, self cooling and basically maintenance free…….with dose rates <1 mrem/hr contact gamma on the sides and 1-2 mrem/hr gamma and <1-2 mrem/hr neutron at the bottom vent ports. As of today, we have 43 casks on our ISFSI pad. Used fuel is not an issue and if anything, our 43 casks SHOULD show just how small this amount of "waste" really is compared to the energy produced (1200 megawatt plant running since 1985)

  3. Nice article, Rod!
    I recall being at the Canadian environmental hearing of the Seaborn Commission when he agreed that AECL had demonstrated that geologic disposal was technically acceptable, but had not demonstrated that it was “socially acceptable.” That was a surprise.
    So we have been spending lots of money (labour) trying to find a “willing host community” a site for deep disposal.
    Ted Rockwell said it best. Just put the containers anywhere with a sign saying, “Please do not eat.”

  4. “Spent Fuel” from a Light Water Reactor is worth 4 times its weight in gold on a BTU basis. It is a very valuable resource.
    Avoid this issue through the use of Molten Salt Reactors!

    1. BTUs aren’t worth much; they’re plentiful, although gold is capable of yielding exactly zero BTUs, so the analogy is not one. Why are MSR fans so prevalent in web forums? I honestly believe their promoters are disingenuous about the “advantages” of MSRs… certainly they’re at least unappreciative of the formidable radiological challenges and flippant when challenged regarding them. Quite silly. Concept was shelved a long time ago.

      1. @scaryjello

        There are certainly times and places where BTUs are cheap or even worth less than zero. (Think negatively priced electricity or flared natural gas.)

        On the other hand, certain kinds of BTUs in certain times and places can be extremely valuable. (Think natural gas in New England during a polar vortex type cold weather event.)

        Part of the value of gold comes from marketing to convince people to value either gold or the products that can be made from gold. The same is true of BTUs, with the added price pressures that can be produced by delivering exactly the right amount of heat at the time and place that it is needed the most.

        The challenge for nuclear businessmen is to work with engineers and designers to produce products that can deliver high value BTUs or kWhs and to design those products in such a way as to put costs on an ever lowering trajectory.

        The stored BTUs in used nuclear fuel represent high profit potential if clever people can find low cost ways to unlock that value. Part of the approach to that situation may include continued efforts to ensure that current owners of the material will willingly pay to get rid of it. Great fortunes have been made by people who noticed value where everyone else saw wasteland or trash.

      2. “The folks at Terrestrial Energy would disagree with you…”

        All six of them?

        For those who didn’t read the Canadian regulator’s summary of Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR “Completing Phase 1” of the review process:

        Conclusions of phase 1 review:

        1.TEI has demonstrated an understanding of CNSC requirements
        2.TEI has demonstrated its intent to comply with the CNSC regulatory requirements
        3.TEI has demonstrated that it intends to adequately justify the use of alternative approaches in meeting design requirements
        4.TEI is integrating Fukushima lessons learned into IMSR design provisions
        5.Additional work is required by TEI

        Basically, the CNSC gave them an audience, as they are required to do by mandate since it is an agency of the people for the people of Canada.


        “Avoid this issue through the use of Molten Salt Reactors!” was the preceding quote from John Frick. What we are avoiding, I have no idea, but it sure sounds like something we all ought to get behind. I think he is implying that MSRs will not have spent fuel. He must have read that preposterous tidbit somewhere out there in the forums or in a thorium book… prolly right after a chapter entitled “cheaper than gas”.

  5. This is very true.
    When I see a project for a new nuclear power plant I automatically hear voices telling about the nuclear waste produced.
    It is true that the nuclear power will generate clean electricity (no or very low carbon emissions, but nuclear waste that is hard and expensive to dispense).
    However, when the forest https://www.alternative-energies.net/coniferous-forest-biome/ is cut off just to make room for a new power plant I can;t say that I agree.

    1. “When I see a project for a new nuclear power plant I automatically hear voices telling about the nuclear waste produced.”

      Yeh – Those voices in your head, man, they are something.

      My voices keep talking and tell me that ALL the nuclear waste made by these plants with 40+ years of operation is still sitting at the site. Then they tell me to take a deep breath and that I’m breathing the waste from other power plants. (Hydro, wind and solar excepted.)

      I finally ignore the voices when they spout nonsense about melting glaciers and dead penguins.

      1. “When I see a project for a new nuclear power plant I automatically hear voices telling about the nuclear waste produced.”

        I always think of solar panels and how many of them would have been required to equal the MWHr output from the nuke plant and where all these panels will be stored/deposited when they lose efficiency and are replaced. What size of a waste storage area will they require?

  6. “Disposal” of used Commercial Nuclear Fuel is actually quite easy.

    1. Lower canister in a transfer cask into the “spent” fuel pool
    2. Load canister with 68 bundles (BWR, some designs hold more)
    3. Install canister lid and remove cask from SFP
    4. Weld canister lid on.
    5. Blow down water and vacuum dry
    6. Back fill with helium.
    7. Weld closed vent and drain ports
    8. Download canister from transfer cask into shied cask
    9. Install shield cask lid
    10. Remove shield cask from the reactor building
    11. Place shield cask on designated storage pad
    12. Shield casks are indestructible, their used fuel is self cooling and dose rates are barely above background. There it sits, with it’s high energy gamma fission products and heat load decaying away more and more each day.

    This whole process take 6 days with total exposures ~300 mrem per cask.

    1. Bonds25,

      Is the 300 mrem the dose as measured by the team dosimeters
      or the dose at the cask surface?


      1. Its 0.300 person-REM for each cask give or take, which includes all individual exposures associated with the process. This involves around 50 people. We work this 24 hours a day so we have a day shift and night shift with each shift responsible for doing the same exact evolution for every cask. The previous cask was completed for 0.283 person-REM. The largest dose contributor is the sealing of the canister (canister lid welding, blow down of water, vacuum drying and helium back fill). The sealing activities for the cask we are currently on (the last of this campaign) was 0.143 person-REM. The remaining dose comes from loading of the canister with fuel, removal of the transfer cask from the SFP, transfer cask decon (so all welding is performed non contaminated) and the download of the canister from the transfer cask to the shield cask.

        As for dose rates on the casks…

        On the side of the cask dose rates are usually <1-1 mrem/hr gamma and <1 mrem/hr neutron on contact. Dose rates at the bottom vent covers are usually <1-2 mrem/hr gamma and <1-1.5 mrem/hr neutron on contact. Dose rates at the top vent covers are about the same. General are dose rates around the storage pad are measured in microRem. Our casks are the vertical design.

    2. You forgot…

      13. Chew up the newly paved heavy-haul path transporting the hundred ton cask to the ISFSI.

      Good comment.

      1. Our crawler is nicknamed “Greased Lighting”…..

        At a blinding speed of 1 mph, it takes almost 2 hours to get it from just outside the reactor building doors, through the protected area and on to the ISFSI pad..

      2. Thanks.

        When I tried to post this thank you,
        Got “your comment is too short, please try and say something
        useful”. This is called “artificial intelligence”.

      3. Crawlers and pavement must be cheap compared to air-cushion vehicles.  Using a hovercraft with lightly-loaded flotation tires for traction you ought to be able to move many times faster and more smoothly to boot.

    3. Just confirmed 300 mrem/cask at my site. Absolute minimum would be 100 mrem/cask for the PWRs for the nth cask (after the crew has had some practice).

      So low… 6% of a yearly 5R spread over a crew.

      1. Yeah getting into a rhythm, lessons learned and on the spot new ideas for efficiency definitely help with overall exposures during the process…..for example.

        Cask #1 – 472 mrem
        Cask #2 – 427 mrem
        Cask #3 – 332 mrem
        Cask #4 – 378 mrem Actually had a roller break while we were moving the HI-STORM out of the RX building truck bay. 5 days later, and with a lot of sweating engineers due to upper management concerns, we bought, per the vendor, 50 gallons of Dawn (yes dish soap) and dumped it into the tracks and pulled the HI-STORM out no problem. This caused some extra dose.
        Cask #5 – 375 mrem (hottest fuel load)
        Cask #6 – 290 mrem
        Cask # 7 – 283 mrem
        Cask #8 – 268 mrem
        Cask #9 – 249 mrem

    4. At SONGS we haven’t achieved a 6 day turn around yet. I think the best we’ve done is 8 days. We’ve completed 14 of the 74 canisters we have to do (two more should be done soon). Then, after a 34-year career, SCE will kick me to the curb, I’ll be so happy to be free.
      I cannot comment on the dose received per canister completed as I am in the control room not on the actual team performing the off-load. I will say that the pathway does get some rough treatment going up the incline to where the fuel is downloaded.

  7. Anyone here a fan of the TV show, “Madam Secretary?” The last episode had a subplot where there characters bemoaned the sorry state of public opinion on nuclear power, driven by the environmentalist lobby. Even had the natgas mogul as a bad guy.

    It sure was nice to hear “nuclear” in a fictional TV show without it being the boogeyman.

    1. Has there ever been a TV show or movie (excluding Pandora’s Promise) that projected Nuclear Power in a positive light? This could possibly be a 1st!

  8. I believe oncologist Julian Rosenman makes a pretty compelling case for using alpha particles from the decay of bismuth-213 as another tool for oncologists to use to treat leukemia patients in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eQLJielY58. 2.1% of the time this isotope decays by release of a (on average) high-energy alpha particle, and this isotope’s half-life is 46 minutes. I am in no position to assess Dr. Rosenman’s claim that 46 minutes is a desirable half-life for a medical radioisotope.

    His argument, though, requires that there be a usable amount of Bi-213 available. Suppose that eventually there comes online some type of reactor that runs on the Th-232 & U-233 fuel cycle. A small fraction of the uranium-233 would eventually decay to bismuth-213.

    However, to what extent is that bismuth technically accessible? Is it technically feasible to extract bismuth-213 and any other socially desirable components of used nuclear fuel and then reseal the fuel bundle?

    1. Not possible for the bismuth at least because of the short half life. Other elements, with much longer half lives, have been extracted in the past, notably Americium.

      1. Fair point David; I forgot to clarify something.

        For precisely this reason I expect this guy supposed a longer-lived parent isotope would be extracted for transport and that the bismuth would only be separated the day it was to be administered.

  9. Small Modular Reactors Will Soon Face a Moment of Reckoning
    Jason Deign
    Green Tech Media
    2018 May 14

    The Nuscale SMR has a “target” LCOE of but $65/MWh. It is not clear whether or not this target is for the first 12pak scheduled to be built on the Idaho National Laboratory reservation outside of Idaho Falls.

      1. NuScale is proposing a control room staff of six licensed operators for their 12 pack power plant design.

        Here’s some relatively recent correspondence from the NRC laying out NuScale’s obligation to provide sufficient evidence to support this substantial exemption to current regulations.


        In other words, the concept has been neither accepted, nor rejected.

  10. There are some places in this country that require people to recycle everything. There is now so much recycled trash that can’t be sold it is being dumped in landfills, yet by law we can not recycle SNF that still has 95% of its fuel.

  11. Cuttler’s comments on the strategy of anti-nukes regarding used nuclear fuel/waste mirror perfectly my local anti-nuke numbskulls. One thing should be added, however, anti-nukes have no hesitation in lying, providing false information, and engaging in hyperbole. They will keep repeating debunked reports and their exposed exaggerations no matter how many times you refute them…so keep calling them out.

    1. “anti-nukes have no hesitation in lying, providing false information, and engaging in hyperbole. They will keep repeating debunked reports and their exposed exaggerations no matter how many times you refute them…so keep calling them out.”

      Why do they do this? Are they somehow getting paid to do this?

      I am not refuting your assertion. However, it seems like people would have bigger fish to fry and easier targets than nuke plants. They can’t all be paid by the oil industry.

      1. Are they somehow getting paid to do this?

        Of course they are.  The Sierra Club, for example, is a captive of a certain wealthy donor.  “Atoms Not Dams” became “No Nukes” because that’s where the money was.  The position goes 100% against the declared goals of keeping energy consumption and population down to protect the environment.  Once the price of plants went up it would have made FAR more sense to demand that all California electricity be nuclear and hang the cost (because it would be emissions-free), but they were being paid to kill nuclear.

        The once-ZPG Sierra Club’s donor is also interested in open borders.  Hang the environment, he’s got 6 billion wannabe-Americans to accomodate.

        it seems like people would have bigger fish to fry and easier targets than nuke plants. They can’t all be paid by the oil industry.

        Nuclear generated 805 TWh in the US last year.  If that had been generated by natural gas instead at 45% efficiency, it would have consumed 6.1 quads of gas.  This would have added some 20% to US consumption and probably given pricing power back to producers.  Even at $4/mmBTU, that market would be worth over $24 billion a year.  That’s one mighty big fish.

  12. Sure, the waste ”problem” continues to dominate the discussion.
    It is difficult to get the public to understand and accept the realities.
    I have tried. See http://wp.me/p1RKWc-LC
    However the exaggerated prices we pay for nuclear in The West may be an even more serious issue.
    It is a shame that the accident at Three Mile Island should be allowed to impose ridiculous regulations for more safety.
    On http://wp.me/p1RKWc-1TM I have tried to analyze the accident at Three Mile Island and the consequences for the industry.
    To be short: We went into panic and left the market for Russia, Korea and China.
    Who will try to mend also this problem?

    1. @Thorkil says June 25, 2018 at 10:11 AM
      “It is a shame that the accident at Three Mile Island should be allowed to impose ridiculous regulations for more safety.”

      I understand what you are trying to say, but it is not that “accident” that is imposing ridiculous regulation… it is PEOPLE, at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is long past time for a discussion about a more effective way to regulate nuclear power.

      “To be short: We went into panic….” Sorry… but if you lived through this history in real time, we were told by none other that NRC, via national news and press releases, that it was TIME TO PANIC! And panic they did.

      If you want to continue this discussion, Rod has my contact info.

      1. Let’s not forget the report the Jimmy Carter himself knew that the TMI problem was far less harmful than the anti-nuke extremists among his supporters wanted to hear. He was about the only openly Christian president of whom I approved, but that was cowardly lying.

  13. I really like the idea of declaring the used material to be valuable private property. At the current price range of eight to fifteen cents a kWh, the fact that one kg of U-238 can become a kg of Pu-239 and by fission in current quite low temperature reactors produce 8 million kWh, means that every kilogram of 96% of that property is worth a million dollars, more in a higher temperature reactor.
    It’s a propaganda argument, but it’s also true!
    I like the idea that the nuclear power plant owners should be proud of safeguarding this Good Stuff.

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