“Waste issue” is part of antinuclear movement strategy of constipation
During the 1970s, the antinuclear movement made a collective decision to use “the waste issue” as a weapon to help force the eventual shutdown of the industry. Though the strategy has not succeeded in forcing any plants in the US to shut down, it has prevented a number of plants from being built. Ralph Nader, one of the most visible organizers of the movement, often referred to the waste issue as the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry. He described his movement’s strategy for taking advantage of the perceived weakness in some detail during a 1997 interview as part of a PBS Frontline show titled Nuclear Reactions. The issue continues to be used to slow nuclear energy development.
One of the repercussions of the illegal actions of the Secretary of Energy and the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain waste repository was to cause a court to declare that it no longer had any confidence in the NRC’s Waste Confidence Rule. That court logically declared that the generic determination on the environmental impacts of used nuclear fuel storage depended on the notion that eventually a permanent repository would be available.
Aside: For more background on the Waste Confidence debacle, please see two excellent guest posts by Paul Dickman Waste Confidence: A Classic Case of Failed Leadership (Part 1 of 2) and Waste Confidence – A Classic Case of Failed Leadership (Part 2 of 2) End Aside.
When the Yucca Mountain license application review was forcibly halted, the only remaining action being taken by the federal government to take responsibility for used nuclear fuel was a “Blue Ribbon Commission” that was starting the whole process from scratch. When the court made its determination of no confidence in Waste Confidence, the country’s nuclear waste situation had been reset to the same position as the one established in 1977.
That was the year when Jimmy Carter put the used fuel recycling industry out of business and declared that the US would try to convince the world to forgo recycling by setting an example in the United States. The only real difference was that the inventory had increased in size by 1,000 to 2,000 tons per year for 35 years.
After the court made its determination, the NRC placed a moratorium on the issuance of both new reactor operating licenses and license extension decisions. It has diverted substantial resources into an effort to draft a new generic environmental impact statement. That draft is now complete — after about a year’s worth of effort by an unknown number of regulators — and the Commission has announced a resource-intensive series of hearings around the country along with a public comment period that is scheduled to run until November 27, 2013. Under the currently promised schedule, the draft will be ready for final approval in about a year.
In a discussion about this frustrating situation and its impact on the development of nuclear energy — due to the uncertainty it adds to the investment decision process — Jerry Cuttler provided the following perceptive comment.
This has always been the antinuclear strategy to phase out nuclear energy, which is:
1. Define (slightly) used nuclear fuel to be “nuclear waste.” (If you do not intend, or are prevented, to recycle once-through nuclear fuel, then it is waste.)
2. Create a the idea that managing used nuclear fuel is an enormous “problem” or burden for future generations of humanity, instead of this fuel being an enormous resource of energy for them.
3. The reasons given by the antinuclear movement for the “problem” are:
a) Used fuel is radioactive forever, and any dose of (human-made) radiation leads to a risk of cancer in exposed people and harmful genetic mutations in unborn children (LNT model of radiation-induced mutations).
b) Used NPP fuel contains plutonium, which could be extracted and made into nuclear weapons (discounting the easier route of separating U-235 from natural uranium or the use chemical or biological weapons).
4. Advocate that no new nuclear power plants be built (or no plant life extension) until we “solve the problem of nuclear waste.” Technical acceptability is not sufficient; we must “demonstrate social acceptance” of any proposed solution to the “problem.”
5. Intervene and oppose all plans or projects that would isolate (human-made) radioactivity or used fuel. Use the LNT model to calculate health risks to nearby residents from minute amounts (becquerels) of radioactivity that could reach underground drinking water or the surface by any hypothetical means. Create social concerns and social opposition to any transport or disposal of radioactivity or used fuel anywhere.
The world nuclear societies must recognize that this antinuclear strategy is a political problem, and there are no technical solutions to this political problem.
Nuclear societies have to change the rules of this game to regain social acceptance, or witness the phase-out of nuclear energy due to fear of attributed adverse health effects.
The key step to solve this political problem is for the nuclear societies to denounce the invalid LNT concept/model that predicts adverse health effects from low radiation. We have the biological and historical evidence to do this. The ICRP must be persuaded to revert to its 1934 standard that was based on the tolerance dose concept.
My take on the issue includes a emphasizing a slightly different aspect of the situation. I believe that the industry bears much of the blame because it keeps insisting that power plant owners signed a contract with the government to take charge of the used fuel material. The industry regularly criticizes the government for failing to abide by its contracted obligations.
In my opinion, a far more successful strategy for nuclear plant operators would be to reverse course and declare the used material to be valuable private property. Nuclear plant owners should tell the government that they no longer desire any assistance to remove the material. They should inform the government that they want to recycle the material to recover its valuable components. They should stop telling the pubic that they want government assistance in handling a potentially dangerous material; instead they should tell the public that the material is a valuable energy source that also contains additional materials with other useful properties.
The beauty of that reversal is that every statement is true. Making them will alter the conversation and remove the blockage caused by the current misunderstanding about the enormous stored value contained in slightly used nuclear fuel. It is not a burden for future generations; it is a rich resource legacy.
Energy Collective (April 5, 2011) by David Lewis – Dysfunctional Anti Nuke Waste Strategy Increases Nuclear Risk
(HT to Atomikrabbit)
PBS Frontline – Nuclear Reaction (1997) Interview of Ralph Nader : “A consumer advocate and founder of Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group in Washington”
William Ostendorff stated not long ago that he was confident the COL cycle would resume again in 2014.
After the court made its determination, the NRC placed a moratorium on the issuance of both new reactor operating licenses and license extension decisions.
This moratorium by the NRC had to be put to a vote, unless it was unilateral by McFarlane. If not, then this is is where I think the entire group of commissioners at the NRC is just plain simply sleeping on the job.
New plants are not likely to have waste issues before 30 years or so.
What was the vote on that moratorium ? Then you will see who has no judgment.
So they all voted. All of them in favor of the moratorium.
What a shame.
You could also sell the waste yo the Russians.
According to William Tucker they would take it as they understand its value
Who voted for the moratorium or was it imposed by Macfarlane ?
William Ostendorff stated that he is confident COL will resume in 2014.
Sorry for redundant post above. Posting comments is challenging on the site this morning.
There may be unpleasant taxation effects caused by calling the used fuel valuable.
Also I suspect power plant owners would rather just operate plants, and not get involved in reprocessing the fuel themselves.
Is the problem that no one wants it, or that no one can afford it?
Or is it simply the payback on a recycling plant is so far out that investors looking for the next APPL and GOOG can’t be bothered?
I wish ANS and NEI applied as much sober “now” concern on this issue as you and this blog has and recognized it’s key antinuker ammo! What the heck is with them??
Thank you for reminding us of the LNT issue.
It moved me to add my old hormesis page to my new web site “Skyscrubber.com”.
The link to LNT/Hormesis is: http://www.skyscrubber.com/s2_2-8_hormesis.htm
@Rod: I certainly don’t disagree that used nuclear fuel is a valuable energy resource (and preferably should not be consigned to the wholesale disposal).
However, a few problems crop up – the biggest one being economics. Right now, it is cheaper simply to mine new uranium out of the ground and enrich it than it is to recover the plutonium for reuse. This is going likely going to be true for substantial amount of time. (Not “forever,” but “long enough.”) This means that holding onto used nuclear fuel assemblies pretty much means holding onto a speculative resource – something that has some value, but value which we cannot recover at an economically competitive rate presently. Meanwhile, there’s an opportunity cost here to holding onto that resource (in this case, the cost of maintaining dry storage facilities – which, while not enormous, are non-trivial).
In this sense, it’s a lot like holding onto a play of valuable minerals which are of too low a grade to presently recover. (In fact, there are plenty of uranium mines just like this right now.) Yes, it clearly has value – but there are also opportunity costs to simply holding onto it and waiting for it to become an economically viable resource.
It would be hard to convince a private entity with even a relatively long time horizon to be bullish on used fuel in this way – namely because they’re not likely to make good on their investment for a fairly long period of time, unless uranium prices rise precipitously.
Again, to emphasize: this doesn’t mean used nuclear fuel has no value. But what it does mean is that in strictly economic terms, you’re going to have a hard time making the case on the value of the recovered fuel alone.
Meanwhile, compounding this – a new nuclear power plant is an enormous capital outlay for most utilities – for many, it’s a significant fraction of their equity. A modern reprocessing plant typically is estimated to go for double or triple that price – and again, it has to produce a product that can compete with fresh uranium. That’s a tall order.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue it, but it does mean a strictly economic case is unlikely to fly.
Meanwhile, I think you’re too quick to dismiss the issue of inter-generational burden; yes, used fuel is a resource, but again – there’s also a stewardship cost involved. There are ways around this, I think – for example, we could look the way decommissioning funds are put away in escrow as a model. (The proposed changes to the nuclear waste fee may work as a model here – the unspent balance could be placed into escrow to ensure continuous funds for monitoring and upkeep of long-term storage.)
But the most important thing here is this: say the anti-nuclear movement got its greatest wish: then what? The “waste” is still here – they haven’t solved the problem they continuous complain about. Meanwhile, if the “problem” was solved, it undercuts a major argument against the deployment of nuclear technology.
In my mind then, it should come down to calling their bluff; instead of dismissing waste as a non-issue, challenge them on the fact that they oppose any serious and reasonable plan to manage that waste, be it through geologic disposal of intact used fuel assemblies or reprocessing to reduce the long-term radiotoxicity burden.
But the most important thing here is this: say the anti-nuclear movement got its greatest wish: then what? The “waste” is still here – they haven’t solved the problem they continuous complain about.
I’m cynical. I’m pretty sure that the wish is to shut down nuclear energy so that it no longer offers abundant, clean energy. Some may believe this goal is driven by an ideological dream of returning human society to a pre-industrial age utopia that never really existed. I believe it is more about protecting coal, oil, natural gas, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and tidal energy from being “crowded out” by a superior technology.
@Rod: Regardless of what “drives” the movement at large (I am still convinced that the rank-and-file are driven by an ideological agenda, even if your assertion is true that the funding comes those with more economic agendas), this is also the argument that carries some currency with the public.
Hence why I think it’s so important to call their bluff: it’s an empty argument. If we solved the “waste problem”, it neuters much of the effect of “weak” opposition / uncertainty about nuclear technology with the public. The fact that the anti-nuclear movement opposes every responsible means of solving this problem indicates that the anti-nuclear argument is simply a canard. This, in my mind, is crucial.
It’s also an opportunity to split those who have genuine concerns about long-term safety from those simply using it as a cudgel: solicit their suggestions as to what to do about the issue. Demonstrate that we too are concerned about ensuring the responsible management of radioactive materials, and that we believe there are an abundance of technical solutions available, from deep geologic disposal to recovery of valuable materials. After all – we all want to minimize potential risks to future generations – it’s simply a matter of where we see opportunities that others don’t. Those serious about safety and the environment will take up the challenge – and those who are not discredit themselves by refusing.
I like the idea of this strategy overall, Professor Skutnik. Perhaps we should do our parts to help it make its way to the fore-front of overall pro-nuclear folks (who are, in my opinion, by very definition pro-future folks moreso than pro-present or pro-past).
I like it as well.
When discussing this with candidate anti-to-pro-nukes, I find I often need to explain a few things about nuclear waste:
The nuclear waste issue is not and has never been about the *amount* of waste. It is only about which solution we choose to get rid of it. There are perhaps a dozen different options. Once we choose a solution, the ‘problem of nuclear waste’ is solved, since the *amount* of waste is not the parameter that drives the costs of nuclear waste control.
I explain this because candidate anti-to-pro-nukes almost always have the erroneous understanding that ‘while we have no solution’ to the nuclear waste, we need to ‘stop producing more of it’. That is demonstrably false. I believe that eliminating this misunderstanding is a key milestone in helping candidate anti-to-pro-nukes on their way past the non-issue of ‘the problem of nuclear waste’.
That is what I remember reading about at some time. Right now, the economics don’t favor reprocessing. That might change if demand goes up or something else happens resulting in a scarcity of uranium. The other thing that could happen is that there is simply no alternative. Storage space runs out and can’t be expanded, dry storage falls out of favor because of political issues, and no repository is developed because of a lack of a “consensus-based” agreement.
The other thing that might break the logjam is a change in national policy that recognizes the value of having a national reserve of plutonium-uranium fuel. Along with that would be a national policy that recognizes the value of maintaining an infrastructure of emissions-free generating capacity. We already do that with petroleum (maintaining a strategic reserve). Likewise, nuclear view should be viewed as a strategic asset, a hedge against a time when fossil fuels are less available than they are now. Sure, it’s speculative, but so is maintaining a military readiness, stockpiles of valuable materials, etc. Nuclear fuel should be a part of that picture.
Why does used nuclear fuel recycling have to justify every penny of its cost, when unreliable energy sources expect – and receive – generous grants, subsidies, feed-in tariffs, and mandated buildouts because they are deemed to be overall in the public good?
Ordinary waste and trash recycling are rarely justifiable on a purely economic basis, yet are nevertheless demanded because the public, rightly or wrongly, sees this as a common boon. As so many things nuclear, it’s all an outcome of the public perception.
France has a good fuel reprocessing infrastructure, but it doesn’t stop the French from apparently wanting to reduce their reliance on nuclear power.
Dealing with anti-nukery is a game of whack-a-mole. Whenever you believe you have one issue covered and done with, another one will pop-up. Point in case is the Flamanville project. I spent some time reading up on that one, and the brilliant strategy of the anti-nukes in that case was to bide their time silently during the public consultation period, and then after everyone was satisfied and the project was on the roll, they started their all-out misinformation and demonisation campaign. You just can’t win, unless you go all-out.
Countries with nuclear power ambitions have to have public education and participation front and center at all times. It is not something that can be dealt with when the time comes or only during certain phases of a project. It has to be a continous effort on all levels, from earliest project conception throughtout entire lifecycle. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it is crucial. Any lapse in attention to this, even if for only a few years, will bring out the moles and potentially throw the entire program into disarray, even if all bases are completely covered as in the French case.
My thought is that a potential strategy might be to arrange the finances of nuclear power programs in such a way that each citizen gets a monthly tribute paid into his ban account that is paid out of tax revenues on nuclear power plants. That way, each citizen is directly benefitting from the financial rewards that nuclear power offers. Each citizen will then be prompted to thin carefully about unthinkingly backing the anti-nuke moles. That this strategy works can be seen in Germany. Even while solar and wind projects are net-money-sinks to the economy at large, the fact that many Germans profit directly from it through subsidy pay-out means that those German are propelled into the pro-energiewende camp. Something similar could be arranged around nuclear programmes, in order to solidify and make tangible the benefits of nuclear power to the citizens.
Just my random thoughts on this.
Used nuclear fuel, taken by itself, may well have economics as you indicate. But there is one additional factor. The nuclear power utilities are paying the Federal Government 1/10¢ per kilowatt-hour of power generated to take the used fuel. So far, none of the used fuel has been taken, while billions of the dollars accumulated have been spent studying a still empty hole in the ground.
Since the Federal Government is not living up to its end of the bargain, the utilities need to get back they money already paid in. This money, plus future payments, should go towards actually doing something useful with the used fuel. My preference would be to fund development and deployment of Gen IV reactors so that the tremendous energy in the used fuel could be put to use. An acceptable solution would be to construct plants to reprocess the used fuel into new fuel elements.
Part of the money should also be used to fight the public relations battles against the anti-nuclear forces.
Under present economics, I agree with the position that Spent Fuel is a speculative holding. One fact about the influence of economy is – it is not static.
Lets add some energy facts to the case.
1) US average use of residential electricity ~12,000 kw-hr /yr
2) In China, about 1/6 of our usage or ~2,000 kw-hr /yr
3) In India, about 1/18 of our usage or ~ 670 kw-hr / yr
US has already shipped millions of jobs overseas, these are growing manufacturing economies. And with that comes a higher standard of living there (lower here).
If 2 Billion plus people started consuming power the way we do, or even if we met in the middle, the world has a substantial prospect of tremendously large future energy demand.
Burn coal for that? Our lungs may not survive that.
Use solar for that? Only by covering the land mass most folks live in.
Use wind for that? Standby for unscheduled power outages.
Nuclear is about the only truly renewable energy source that is scalable to massive baseload capacity with current technology.
As people come out from behind the ox cart in the developing world, they’ll demand access to energy. To keep costs in line it is the wise decision to ramp up capacity ahead of time.
In my mind then, it should come down to calling their bluff; instead of dismissing waste as a non-issue, challenge them on the fact that they oppose any serious and reasonable plan to manage that waste, be it through geologic disposal of intact used fuel assemblies or reprocessing to reduce the long-term radiotoxicity burden.
Steve, I think we probably agree on the basics, but my strategy is different from yours, perhaps because we like different kinds of games. “Calling their bluff” is a good move in poker, but it requires a talent that I simply do not have. Friends and family have told me for many years that I am too passionate about certain topics and that I do not “suffer fools” very well. My face often contorts, making me way too easy to read. (This was a bit of an issue at times during my navy career when the fool I wanted to challenge in public was my boss or several ranks higher than me. I survived, but my career progression was a little restrained.)
I prefer to Kobayashi Maru strategy when in a game whose rules have been purposely written to prevent success. By pivoting and proclaiming used nuclear fuel as valuable material instead of waste, we turn the rules on their head. Storage in place, above ground is really quite inexpensive compared to moving material to an engineered below ground storage area located thousands of miles away on the other side of countless political entities, each of whom have the capability of adding delays and additional costs. There is no danger to anyone; to convince me otherwise you have to find at least one example somewhere in the world of anyone being hurt by exposure to used nuclear fuel.
My proposed strategy is one that works great in a game that is a better analog for our current waste debate than poker. It is a strategy that I have used successfully to end a tug of war match that was lasting so long that participants on both sides were panting and at risk of passing out. We simply stopped pulling, ran forward a couple of steps, and let the other side fall on their butts. Then we easily pulled the rope out of their hands.
“Friends and family have told me for many years that I am too passionate about certain topics and that I do not “suffer fools” very well. My face often contorts, making me way too easy to read.”
lol! I have the same problem. To solve this problem, I leaped at the opportunity to join a casual poker club when it came. I daresay I have improved myself, judging from my increasing success at that game. (although I still barely break even on an annual basis.)
Generally I agree with Steve S. there are all sorts of legal, tax, economic issues involved in treating SNF (spent nuke fuel) as “fuel”. The problem is that you are accepting the static view of the finances and technology surrounding the fuel based on the assumption that nothing changes.
While I don’t agree the way this can change is best summarized by Rod by having the utilities declare SNF as ‘private’ and just telling the gov’t to go away. But he’s on the right track. This takes, just as every nuclear initiative has been from a huge cooperative effort by the US government, universities and private labs and utilities, the same has to shift here. We need a *national* policy like the French that dictates:
1. SNF is the property of the people of the U.S.
2. SNF is too valuable to bury forever.
3. A national reprocessing program, integrated internationally with the very advanced French and Russian program, bringing in the Japanese, S. Koreans and Chinese, will be started. All USDs collected to fund geological storage will be phased over to reprocessing.
4. All national nuclear labs (Oakridge, Los Alamos, Livermore, etc) will coordinate this US effort to develop better, faster and cheaper forms of reprocessing.
Mission: Eliminate the ~80k tons of HLW (High Level Waste), provide fuel for existing and expanded fleet of LWRs.
Technology: open source, transparent.
All of the above…if we were serious as “nation” in doing this.
That sounds quite a bit like George W.’s GNEP initiative that came into being in the earlier 2000’s while I was still a student, David Walters.
Spent fuel is a valuable carbon neutral fuel source that is legally owned by the Federal government and is therefore a valuable energy commodity owned by the American people. That’s the way the Federal government needs to address spent fuel from now on in order to counter the view that this nuclear material is– waste.
But the Federal government also needs to get its act together and start removing the spent fuel housed in cask at commercial nuclear facilities (Its legal obligation). These spent fuel cask should be temporarily placed (up to 100 years if necessary) at Federally protected sites within the States (on Federal lands) that produced the nuclear material until the Federal government is ready to reprocess the material for future use in current and next generation nuclear reactors.
Plutonium from spent fuel could easily be utilized as fissile material in current light water reactors and in future designs that use thorium.
The Federal government could make such temporary spent fuel sites more attractive to the States by offering to take full ownership (for a fee) of all nuclear waste material produced by the medical industry within each State, housing this radioactive material at separate facilities near the spent fuel storage facilities.
Marcel F. Williams
I understand there are many billions of dollars in the waste fund paid for by a small per kwh levy on nuclear energy. Why not have the industry demand 5%-10% of that fund be spent on a commercial demonstration LMFBR plant to put to rest the uncertainties around the economics and prove the viability of turning nuclear “waste” into a huge asset?
What antinuke lefty could be against the industry’s efforts to “reduce, reuse and recycle?”
More importantly, however, it would change the channel politically. If a successfully operating and ECONOMIC LMFBR facility were up and running, then the industry could shout loud and often that the “waste” is a CO2-free energy resource equivalent to X Saudi Arabias worth Y $trillions, and that we don’t need to spend billions to dispose of it, but instead build more LMFBR plants to tap into this incredible multi-trillion-dollar, carbon-free resource. Frame it as a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY to have almost unlimited access to carbon-free energy from within our own borders!
Screw the economics of new LWR fuel vs. LMFBR costs. If a demonstration plant, paid for by money the industry has already given to the government for purposes of dealing with the waste, provides proof that the waste can be re-used rather than being disposed, even if it costs 1 whole cent per kwh more…it can kill that meme and change the political environment that is currently screwing the industry.
The waste meme could be changed from “we cannot burden generations with nuclear waste that is dangerous for 10,000 years” to “we have here enough carbon-free energy, without mining anything, to meet the needs of American families and industry for the next 500 years – that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what we do with the waste.” Anyone who speaks ill of such a proposal would be endangering global climate and threatening US national security!
Disposal of the negative politically-charged “waste” meme could do incredible things for the industry (and the environment). This battle is to be fought on the grounds of politics, and a demonstration waste-recycling reactor is the way to do a little jiu-jitsu against the political opposition. [The only problem is “they” know this and good luck getting a waste-burning reactor approved through Congress, but even waging an apparent losing battle would educate many that the waste is not really waste, and flush out the true hypocrites in Congress at the same time]
SteveFost, as Rod’s post points out, EVERY “antinuke lefty” would do everything in their power to oppose such a solution.
I agree that with both you and Steve Skutnik above (and I am sure Rod would also agree), that a very effective potential strategy is for “us” to find ways to utilize the inevitable disingenuous opposition to actual solutions as a means to properly discredit these opposers.
One major problem with this possible strategy, however, is the lack of an actual “nuclear industry” that could all pull together in a common direction.
So, I guess that is a major part of the problem: there is not a sufficiently powerful focal point for collective action on a political level [this blog notwithstanding 🙂 ]???
Perhaps everyone who works in the business should try to work harder together (ANS working committees with task of organizing PR and lobbying efforts?) to fight for policy such as redirecting a portion of waste management funds toward a commercial LMFBR demonstrator to *prove* an alternative path forward via safe, cost-efficient recycling. Even though not technically necessary with regard to supply and cost of fissionable fuel, it would be powerful from a political perspective.
Proving we can practically, cost-effectively, turn waste into an almost limitless energy source, safely, while solving the CO2 problem and casting aside other long-term energy supply fears – THIS could be the basis for an extremely powerful PR campaign, changing the public perceptions in an almost incalculable way.
Remember Reagan’s “Its Morning in America Again”? We need to offer a great vision of abundance, where America leads once more into a bright and glorious future: cheap energy, clear skies, world-leading industry, a successful and secure world for your children and grandchildren. Such a vision of abundance made Carter put his cardigan in the drawer. Reagan’s image of fossil-fuelled abundance in “Morning” was a mirage, of course, but a reinvigorated nuclear sector can deliver it for real: “Clean Nuclear is Powering Success in America” or… you get the idea 🙂
It would not just be the “antinuke lefties” that would halt SteveFost’s proposal. The nuclear industry has forcefully opposed any suggestion that the “nuclear waste fund” be used for any purpose other than to remove fuel from power stations to put it into a repository. They do not want to hear about anyone using that money to build a recycling facility because they are concerned that the fund would be depleted by a failed project (history is not kind to DOE led construction projects) and they would be left with the continuing responsibility for material that has no place to go.
If utilities determined that their used fuel was valuable, perhaps they could all agree to put aside a mill or two per kilowatt hour to build up a cooperative fund that would, when the time was right, be used to construct a facility that could recycle the material and extract its value.
Wow – didn’t know the industry has opposed or would oppose proposals to prove to all and sundry that its waste is actually a huge, greenhouse gas free resource potentially worth trillions.
How much would it take for a commercial *demonstration* reactor? Can’t GE-H offer to build one S-PRISM on a fixed price contract? How much could it take? $1B or so? That’s pocket change out of the waste fund.
The point stands regardless: the industry is bringing a knife to a gun fight when it comes to the politics, and conceding ground to entities that profit by using the power of Government to tie the industry up in knots.
As an aside: LWR SNF can be re-purposed as CANDU fuel without chemical reprocessing as the fissionable content is already higher than the natural Uranium which CANDUs use quite happily (Google DUPIC fuel cycle developed in Canada). This conversion is relatively cheap and completely “proliferation proof”. I believe the number is something like an extra 50% energy can be gotten out of SNF by exploiting the neutron economy of heavy-water reactors alone. Make Canada an offer! 🙂
I just finished up at the 12th International CANDU Fuel Conference held in Kingston, Ontario. CANDU Energy is working with the Chinese on this to feed China’s CANDU’s with spent fuel from their growing LWR fleet. The number quoted was 4 LWR’s can completely feed 1 CANDU.
However, CANDU as a reactor seems to be going the way of the Do-Do. There is a good chance that Ontario Power Generation will build 2 AP-1000’s at their Darligton site over CANDU EC-6’s. If that happens, I cannot see how a CANDU reactor will be built anywhere in the future.
Well, India is building PHWR at a rel. fast pace…
They have their advantages but I wonder if they are not as good as PWR?
Honestly I live in fear some third party like India or Russia will agree to “take it off our hands for free” and we will end up giving away a vast store of inexpensive future clean energy for the ignorance of the anti nukes.
We live in the present. Get the waste our of the country and let’s go back to building nukes.
Im not so bothered by the waste issue Daniel. People read about things and in their mind the world and the country is a much smaller place than it really is. Compared to other waste issues, there really is no nuclear waste issue of any real significance.
This is interesting, I wish my area had the necessary features that we could get involved in it:
Lawmakers weigh decision to store nuclear waste in Mississippi
“Spent nuclear fuel is being stored now all over the U.S., including (in Mississippi at the Grand Gulf nuclear plant),” said Jason Dean of the Mississippi Energy Institute, in a presentation to the state Senate Economic Development Committee. “We think if we consolidate it in Mississippi, we can reprocess it … Technology has completely changed the paradigm.” ( http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20130826/NEWS/130826041/Lawmakers-weigh-decision-store-nuclear-waste-Mississippi- )
John – No need to worry about that. As soon as such a plan were to be announced, the eco-crazies would come out of the woodwork, with much fanfare, to decry the immoral “dumping” and “forcing” of our “waste” on other poor, not-so-enlightened countries.
Simply put, it ain’t gonna happen.
If the stuff to be stored was “just” highly concentrated chlorine I wonder how much of a ruckus there’d be!
The epithet eco-crazie is an inappropriate for people who are concerned about dumping on the poor.
But it is apropos.
If the particular choice of words bothers you, then how about the more verbose and descriptive “hysterical people of the innumerate persuasion,” or perhaps the simpler, more-PC term, “scientifically challenged.”
What I find inappropriate is your use of the epithet “dumping” for a transaction in which the so-called “poor” come away with a valuable energy resource.
Some people are morally challenged.
Susanne Im kinda starting to not only agree with the nukers but in some cases be even more proactive about this kind of thing than they are.
That plant would mean almost 2000 jobs, plus associated shipping/rail jobs, plus extensive environmental monitoring jobs and employment in all the related community support infrastructure. It would replace uranium from mining (possibly less regulated third world operations) with ultra regulated and monitored recycling. Not to mention the displacement of other energy programs, ones that REALLY harm people.
The facility would likely be a comparatively small footprint/high profit operation with probably a large security buffer (refuge) that would receive top notch environmental monitoring and research funding.
Its extremely foolish not to hear out the entire proposal before judgment. With what is at stake, its foolhardy beyond description.
I agree with the advantages of nuclear that you mention. Storage and reprocessing have both advantages and disadvantages which may weigh in differently for different countries and different points in time. Both storage and reprocessing allow reuse of used nuclear fuel-permanent burial does not allow reuse of nuclear fuel which has many valuable materials in it. Thus far permane nt burial is favored in the United States. France, the United Kingdom and some other countries have opted for reprocessing. Some in our country favor monitored retrievable storage. We may change our policy in the future but that should not be used as an excuse for delaying implementation of our present policy. Most of our waste here in Seattle is recycled and I have numerous “garbage cans” but thank goodness we have never had an interruption of waste removal.
The official policy in the United States may be permanent burial, but the de facto policy is above ground storage in carefully engineered, inspected and licensed facilities. Sure, the licenses have expiration dates and are not intended to last forever, but all of them can be renewed.
Your comparison to removal of normal household waste needs to be extended a little further. How worried would you be if you generated so little waste that you could store 30 years worth in a small corner of your property? My own worry and concern would drop pretty low if it did not stink, and if the cost was low enough to be a rounding error in my monthly budget.
Energy density has many advantages, one of them is that the waste material is compact and easy to retain on site.
An Energy Collective post on the origins of the “constipation” strategy:
However, the author comes from the “concerned about spent fuel pools” school of thought, rather than my “we are squandering precious future fuel resources” perspective.
I believe the financial basis for opposition to Yucca Mt. is coming from Casino operators who don’t want to compete with a nuclear industry for labor. The “waste problem” will go away when Sen Reid moves on and the citizens of Nevada realize that nuclear fuel cycle management will offer more opportunities than dealing Blackjack.
Recycling of used fuel is a dying industry. The UK has more than a hundred tons of recovered reactor grade plutonium with no clear idea how to use it. I believe they even considered disposing it off as waste but have not taken a decision.
NSG should decide that it could be used as nuclear fuel by them or anyone who undertakes to use it as reactor fuel. Then it could be transferred to India, where it would be used as fast reactor fuel or as thermal reactor fuel with thorium. They could also blend it with thorium for use as reactor fuel by third parties.
Once so used, the recycling will get a new lease.
Recycling, at the present time is more expensive than using fresh Uranium. This may not always be the case as it depends on the cost of Uranium. Secondly, I have no reason to believe that recycling facilities will or be more welcome in communities than either temporary or permanent waste storage facilities. Third, recycling, does not eliminate the need for a permanent repository as the leftovers from reprocessing are radioactive.
Mississippi recently announced its interest in exploring opportunities in managing nuclear waste. They are especially interested in the opportunities associated with recycling facilities because those tend to be much larger employers than passive storage areas.
Rod, You are correct that recycling facilities offer more long term jobs than storage facilities. Once storage facilities are constructed fewer peole are employed. At the same time, facilities that are actively processing waste are riskier than facilities that are passively storing waste.
@Susanne E. Vandenbosch
That may be true, but it depends on how low you set the bar before you declare that risk is low enough to be acceptable.
I am a pretty cautious person. I wear seat belts religiously; I do not use any distracting devices while driving; I wear a helmet when I ride a bike; and I am part of an industry that puts safety first, even to the point of starting every meeting with a safety message. However, I am keenly aware that no activity is completely risk free.
For human beings, one of the riskiest things that can happen in terms of long term negative health effects is to be poor and unemployed. Completely avoiding industrial risk puts billions of people into that risky situation.
How would you compare, for example, the risk of living next door to the La Hague nuclear fuel recycling facility to the risk of living anywhere close to Richmond, CA?
You are correct-the present governmor of Mississippi favors reprocessing in Mississippi. It would provide badly needed jobs. It was once conidered for storage as it has an attractive salt formation-the Richton Dome. Storage was strongly opposed by
Former Senator Trent Lott. They may have oversold it. I think it was a member of the congressional delegation who said “You would think it was the second coming”. I would like to know what former governors Ray Mabus, William Winter and Bill Allain think of the idea. They served close to the time I was teaching in Mississippi and I felt that these three courageous governors were strongly committed to Mississippi. Mabus is cuurently Secretary of the Navy and is familiar with nuclear issues.
With actinide recycling, fissile nuclides are kept in the fuel cycle. These are the long lived isotopes, with recycling they require no storage.
The short lived fission products are gone in 100 to 300 years, leaving only Uranium 238, which resembles the radioactivity of its original ore (99.3% of all natural Uranium).
Nature and man should do the same thing, place these as oxides intio the mines they came from.
A closed fuel cycle makes Spent Fuel an asset, and we should do it.
US Navy has reprocessed cores for +50 years.
These are well paid domestic jobs, contribute to the environment in may ways by eliminating storage burden and avoiding Carbon and heavy metal smoke stack emission from fossil plants.
I should have added that just because the cost of recycling is higher than the estimated cost of direct disposal does not mean that recycling should be eliminated as an option. The cheapest option is not always selected either in our personal choices or by governments. The different elements present in fission products and the “minor” actinides produced by neutron capture in nuclear reactors have different proerties and it should be possible to separate them and reuse the fissionable isotopes. The decision to use the cheapest option is a policy decision.
An astronaut once was asked “What was your first thought after blast off?” He replied “50,000 parts all built by the lowest bidder”.
This just out :
A bill introduced Wednesday in the US Senate and House of Representatives would reorganize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shift power from the chairman to all of the agency’s commissioners, the bill’s co-sponsors said in a statement.
Just because actinides are long -lived does not mean that they do not need storage. many are alpha emitters, some are beta emitters with energetic gamma rays. Plutonium is transported rapidly with iron compounds. Long-lived isotopes emit radiation throughout their lifetime.
I say the nuclear industry needs to do something collectively but they are not going to because there is no nuclear industry per se. How do you round them up to rally for change when that change takes away their livelihood? Think of the utilities as multi-headed dragons protecting their earning potential.
This article speaks about Iowa’s energy problem with one reactor.
“Of course, this argument ignores the inherent problem – the issue is not that SMRs aren’t ready for primetime, but rather that the NRC lacks the will or capacity to make such regulatory analysis. How this is the fault of the industry or specifically SMR manufacturers remains to be seen. Absent the NRC’s dithering, it remains to be seen why such a “subsidy” as he terms it would even be necessary. Again, the problem here is not that the so-called “subsidy” is necessary but that some degree of expedience on the part of the NRC (one Deaton is silent on) is warranted. Assigning the blame to the technology for bureaucratic inaction is thus a non-sequitur.” see blog post on Neutron Economy
Makes a good case for regulatory body delaying progress.
Rod is correct that it is the ‘nuclear industry’…and what this means are the utility companies…are the main conservativizing force. My proposal comes from…a very left-wing pro-nuclear perspective that actively seeks government intervention on this question.
There are real problems that give the “left” of the pro-nuclear movement some grip on the road here: look at the reasons the last few announced closures of several older nuclear plants were made; look at the reason, and this is the most important, every nuclear utility has given for cancelling or delaying plans for new nuclear plants: they are only looking to fill new load demand, *not* to replace existing fossil fuel investments. Why? Because it’s not profitable and they want to squeeze every last dollar out of the existing capital investment (and beyond that as the investments have mostly been paid off). There is not a single utility in the US that has ever proposed replacing fossil fuel with nuclear. Not a one. It’s all based either on replacing generation based on that generation plant being too old and thus is scheduled for replacement or…based on load growth.
This is why, like the SNF issue, it takes a huge, truly national effort regardless of “The Market” to plan out the implementation of both reprocessing and the expansion of nuclear energy *because it’s better than anything fossil plants have to offer*. This means, in effect a return to the 1950s and1960s way of looking at our infrastructure development. It is the only way we’ll ever seen SNF reprocessing or the roll out of Gen IV nuclear energy.
Yes, it’s funny. Like most energy companies, Windmill and Solar farm people hardly ever talk about their being part of a “mix” (we can do it all!), but nuclear folks do/must?
How good would it be for nuclear energy if coal were eliminated? Is there enough natural gas to replace the 40% that coal represents in the US? The SMR comes to mind again.
It would not be good for the US if we suddenly tried to stop using coal. Low cost energy is a vital part of our economic strength. We certainly need to burn coal as cleanly as possible, but elimination would be very detrimental.
Of course you would support using nuclear to phase coal out. The opposite of Germany who besides being misguided were too hasty in the transition.
Coal provides physical raw material for products that nuclear doesn’t, and simply burning it to do what nuclear does better is a crime. Preserving coal to manufacture pharmaceuticals to fertilizer and chemicals and fuels etc is the most logical and prudent use of a finite physical resource.
Similar statements can be made about other hydrocarbons like natural gas (methane) and crude oil.
One of the highest and best uses of those materials is as a densely concentrated liquid fuel source appropriate for small, personal scale transportation and relatively small aircraft.
Large scale power generation and heat production should eventually shift to far more abundant and reliable nuclear fission. By the way, large scale to me is anything above 5-20 MWe; that is the fossil fuel version of the phrase “large scale”.
To me, at this point, it seems that it will be necessary to use nuclear power to do the job of dealing with climate change. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that when we use nuclear power we are changing relatively harmless material, uranium, into extremely radioactive material, some of which remains radioactive for millions of years. An example, is Neptunium- 237 with a half-life of 2 million years. There is an intermediate position between using the nuclear waste issue to stop the development of nuclear power and ignoring the waste issue. The intermediate position is recognition that it is a problem and develop and pay for methods for handling the nuclear waste.
Comments are closed.
Recent Comments from our Readers
I spent some time to listen to this podcast, and I still have two questions about module size and its…
Will I agree with your theory. Expensive designs are going to be expensive to build, even with practice. I would…
“And since we are seeing it in the West but not in the East (UAE, S Korea, Russia, China) is…
@Cyril R What was Tesla’s learning rate starting at the first Roadster? How much do you think that first unit…
A new engine or turbine product line doesn’t just cost triple a unit. That’d make it pointless. Yet this is…