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  1. It is preposterous to talk about nuclear waste remaining toxic for tens of thousands of years. It is preposterous to talk about tens of thousands of deaths from a nuclear accident. Those analyses are based upon a laughable error. If one person eats 200 aspirin, he will die. These people figure that if 200 people eat one aspirin each, there will be one death. If two million people are exposed to a dose rate of one aspirin per person, there will be 20,000 deaths. In fact one aspirin is beneficial, and low levels of radiation are beneficial. Geographical areas with higher background radiation have lower levels of cancer.

    1. I don’t think it is yet scientifically defendable to say that low levels of radiation are in the net beneficial (via Hormesis or whatever other effects). This is because, while Hormesis effects can be shown, experimentally, it is uncertain at what effect they have on populations as a whole, or what worthwhile benefit they actually confer on an individual.
      Is it more appropriate to say that there is no showing net harm from low levels of radiation people encounter? The LNT hypothesis is experimentally and theoretically discredited. Small additional sources, like from dental X-rays, just shouldn’t matter, one way or the other in overall cancer risk. The benefits of these are clear: filling cavities sooner rather than later, and so on (and we don’t need to even discuss what an additional supposed hormesis benefit should give). Radiation from a normally working power plant is just infinitesmal (a homeopathic tritium remedy?). People shouldn’t be worried or enthusiastic about that at all.
      Just because its fairly clear that the evidence of the total effects of small doses of radiation do not show it to be bad, it doesn’t follow that its effects must be good. Maybe they are, in the net, indifferent? In other words, maybe ordinarily encountered radiation is something an typical person just shouldn’t give a f*** about?
      Lastly, I’m uncomfortable with the way ordinarily sceptical people have leapt into hormesis advocacy. It reminds of vitamin pushers, or anti-oxidant enthusiasts. Linux Pauling types. There is nothing wrong with carefully studying hormesis. There is everything wrong with pushing it, at this time, as a health benefit.

      1. The LNT model was first considered in the 1940s purely on the theoretical grounds that a single hit by ionizing radiation on a single cell could cause chromosome damage that could cause a mutation or cancer without any hard evidence to support that contention. The justification for using the LNT model was that too many test animals or too much time would be needed to evaluate chronic dose rates. If the LNT model is correct, there is no “no observed adverse effect level” (NOAEL) for regulators to observe, thus officials responsible for public health can claim justification in calling for minimization of exposures to ionizing radiation. Note that this is tantamount to saying that avoiding sunlight is justified on the grounds that nobody will get sunburns in the dark. Added to this, during the Cold War a number of people promoted the LNT model in an attempt to discourage nearly all uses of nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and used it as leverage in their campaigns. As a result the radiophobes and the politicians took a handy but false rule of thumb and enshrined it in law and regulation.
        However the evidence against the linear model and for radiation hormesis has been solid as a rock for 40 years, and this evidence is the best that we have got to refute LNT. To try and ignore the hormesis effects in this data is to bring the data itself into question, and does nothing to make a case against LNT. The bottom line is that we cannot reject the evidence for radiation hormesis, simply because it is politically expedient to do so, without engaging in the same sort of false logic that brought us LNT in the first place.

          1. I am a retired biology professor. I taught immunology where my students performed a lab exercise which demonstrated that radiation from long wavelength UV actually turns on the production of an enzyme that repairs damaged DNA in bacteria. Since all life evolved in an environment of much higher levels than present day levels of ionization radiation, it is also not surprising to find that our immune systems receive beneficial effects from ionizing radiation at low to moderate levels somewhat above our current level background radiation. Investigators have found that small doses of radiation have a stimulating and protective effect on cellular function.
            Mechanisms of radiation hormesis include: elimination of damaged cells which may potentially turn malignant by killer T cells and apoptosis, induction of DNA repair enzymes which fix damaged DNA in injured cells, and prevention of oxidative DNA damage by enhancement of enzymes that eliminate free radicals.
            The radiation that potassium-40 in our cells provides is vital for our health.
            Radioactive potassium in our bodies generates about 25 mrem of radiation per year

            1. @John and Brian – thank you for sharing that important information that needs to be repeated over and over. The notion that we do not know enough about radiation to describe beneficial effects at certain levels is obsolete and can only be held by people who refuse to read and study the subject.
              Unfortunately, there are a couple of powerful GS-15s at EPA who have made their career by doing all they can to force others to ignore and overlook the science.

              1. So what exactly is the “healthful” effect here? Presumably, low level radiation produces internal and external genotoxic stress that trips the body’s immune system into overdrive. This is a kind of therapeutic natural response of the body (evolved over millennia in response to naturally occurring radiation, solar irradiation, and prevalence of mutagenic effects of ionizing radiation on genes that regulate cell division), but it says nothing about environmental conditions that are more or less healthy with respect to radiation. It actually seems to confirm LNT hypothesis to me, but adds that the body is able to mitigate mutagenic effects at very low levels.
                There are many kinds of biological processes of this sort

                1. My objection to the LNT hypothesis is that it ignores biology. Killer T cells and apoptosis have been selected for because allowing damaged cells to transmit harmful mutation to progeny cells lowers survival rate for a species. I suppose that free radicals, chemical mutagens and radiation were all factors that played into the selection of these mechanisms to eliminate damaged cells. The oversimpified LNT model is applied to biological systems with complete disregard and understanding of biology.
                  It also happens that examples of specific wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation can serve as an inducer of DNA repair enzymes. In such cases radiation has a direct horemetic effect.
                  There is an antibiotic resistant bacterial mutant that not only is resistant to streptomycin but actually requires the antibiotic in its diet for survival. The streptomycin molecule has become a necessary part of the organisms ribosomes. Radiation hormesis appears to be another example of biological evolution turning a detriment into an asset.

              2. “However the evidence against the linear model and for radiation hormesis has been solid as a rock for 40 years, and this evidence is the best that we have got to refute LNT” – – DV82XL
                These are two separate questions. Is the LNT a good model? Is the evidence for hormeosis (which, as I said, I know exists) great enough to justify the way some people hype it?
                The LNT model is bad. A bad model to make public policy with. It’s contradicted by evidence.
                This doesn’t mean that, therefore, that hormesis should be promoted, even if evidence of hormesis is partially used to question the LNT. Hormesis should be studied, and considered, and the evidence for it’s health effects should not be overstated in the meantime. Health effects from treatments to prevent cancer are very HARD to study, because cancer is rare, is more than one disease, and shows great variation in incidence.
                The trouble is that medicine is filled with studies of treatments or drugs that showed great theoretical promise, may have shown results in tissue studies, and then either failed to show great effect when trialed, or show a diminished effect in the real world compared to being trialed.
                There is nothing wrong with nuclear advocates WAITING on the scientific medical establishment’s judgement. They ought to be trusted to do a good job evaluating evidence. They, not nuclear energy advocates, should be the spokespeople on this.

                1. “Radiation hormesis appears to be another example of biological evolution turning a detriment into an asset” (John Tjostem).
                  Along these same lines, this caught my attention in the news today. I don’t think anybody will argue that PCBs exhibit a “healthful” effect on Atlantic tomcod stocks in the Hudson River, but it does appear that evolution has some pretty stunning tricks up it’s sleeve (to mitigate environmental stress, or exacerbate it in case of viruses and bacteria). A great discussion, and this appears to be a relevant factor mentioned in the article: “The speed of evolution depends on characteristics of the population and how strong selection pressure is.” I’m not sure I have quite the same level of confidence that humans will be able to respond to deteriorating environmental conditions (radiological or otherwise) at quite the same speed (and turn a detriment into an asset). But we live in a petri dish, that’s for sure!

                2. Please re-read my remarks. I did not imply that radiation hormesis (RH) should be promoted, only that it cannot be ignored because some feel it is too radical an idea. If we are to stand on evidence and fact dismissing LNT, we must recognize and except the evidence supporting RH.
                  Also there is a vast body of work demonstrating RH, reported in about 2000 scientific publications over the last century. Epidemiological evidence confirms the hormesis effect of radiation. The prediction that there would be terrible after-effects from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the survivors and their children was proved wrong. Japanese studies of the life expectancy of survivors who suffered relatively low amounts of radiation show that their life expectancy turned out to be higher than those of the control group and no unusual genetic defects have been found in their children. Again, a follow-up study of Japanese fishermen who were contaminated with plutonium after the nuclear tests at Bikini found 25 years later that none of them had died from cancer. Voluminous, credible peer-reviewed scientific literature data exist and the preponderance of this data better supports the hypothesis that low chronic exposures result in an increased longevity than it supports the opposite hypothesis of decreased longevity.
                  Lastly nothing I wrote could be interpreted as suggesting that low-dose radiation should be administered as a cancer preventative.
                  I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the work done in the area of radiation hormesis, as the field is more highly developed than you might think.

                  1. DV82XL wrote (emphasis mine):
                    “I did not imply that radiation hormesis (RH) should be promoted, only that it cannot be ignored because some feel it is too radical an idea. If we are to stand on evidence and fact dismissing LNT, we must recognize and except the evidence supporting RH.
                    Now, however, you certainly are saying that RH should be promoted. If it is a valid hypothesis that is logically consistent and explains the available scientific evidence, then it should be promoted — unless one prefers to keep one’s head buried in the sand and live in the dark ages.
                    “Lastly nothing I wrote could be interpreted as suggesting that low-dose radiation should be administered as a cancer preventative.”
                    I don’t think that you should be so defensive. What’s wrong with administering low-dose radiation as a cancer preventative?
                    I realize that this might sound strange to anyone who is unfamiliar with hormesis, so a little explanation is in order. These days, hormesis from radiation tends to be classified into one of three types:
                    Radiation Conditioning Hormesis (RCH), which refers to circumstances in which a small dose of radiation (or “mild stress”) or a moderate dose that is administered at a low rate (“prolonged mild stress”) activates protective processes that, in turn, suppress harm from a subsequent large dose of radiation that can be quite damaging.
                    Radiation Hormesis (RH), where a small radiation dose or a moderate dose of radiation at a low rate activates reduces the level of biological harm to below the spontaneous level.
                    Radiation Post-Exposure Conditioning Hormesis (RPECH), where damage normally caused by a large dose of some agent (say radiation) is reduced as a result of a subsequent exposure to a small radiation dose or a moderate dose delivered at a low rate.
                    (Classifications taken from Calabrese et al. “Biological stress response terminology: Integrating the concepts of adaptive response and preconditioning stress within a hormetic dose-response framework.” Toxicol Appl Pharmacol, 222:122-128, 2007.)
                    Thus, administering either a low dose of radiation or a prolonged mild dose of radiation before certain treatments of radiation therapy or radiation-intensive imaging could have very positive results, because of the benefits of RCH. That is, the best option would be to increase the amount of radiation administered to the patient (if the radiation is administered at the correct rates), as counter-intuitive as that must sound to anyone who has gotten into his head that radiation must always be a bad thing.
                    Similarly, the case could be made for the benefits of RH and RPECH as well, including the ironic possibility that the policy of ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) in radiation protection has ultimately been doing more harm than good.

                    1. There is nothing revolutionary about radiation hormesis, and as you have already suggested it has an established track record behind it, and 40 years of experimentation and testing. Where we differ is in describing something that triggers an immune response in humans as “healthy” or otherwise “beneficial.” That’s a stretch.
                      Regarding LNT

                    2. EL wondered:
                      “Regarding LNT … what does the theory actually describe, is it cellular damage on a linear basis with no threshold on the amount of radiation exposure, or cancer incidence (and biologically derived repair mechanisms)?”
                      Oh dear! It’s no wonder you’re confused, if you are actually are asking that question. You don’t even understand the fundamentals.
                      To summarize the LNT model, it states that if 50% of the Japanese atomic bomb targets who were exposed to 4 Sv of dose died because of radiation, then when one million people are exposed to a collective dose of 40 man-Sv of radiation, we would expect 5 people to die from this radiation. (Of course, I’m simplifying a bit. Actually, the current models would predict that only 2.5 to 3.3 people would die from this radiation, depending on whom you asked.)
                      This is what the LNT model says, even though the average dose for each person is only 0.04 mSv, which is the EPA dose limit for public drinking water in a year. This is what the LNT model says, even though people in the US regularly receive 100 times as much radiation in a year from natural sources.
                      It’s like noting that 6 feet of water will surely to drown a man and concluding that, if we expose 360 men to 1 inch of water, we should expect five men to drown. It totally defies common sense.
                      “Increasing someone’s exposure to radiation does not produce ‘healthful’ effects, …”
                      Increasing someone’s exposure to a weakened or killed pathogen does not produce “healthful” effects, it just means that he or she is far less likely to die from polio or something similar, depending on the type of vaccine administered.
                      You need to drop the semantics and focus on what’s really important. Decreased mortality means less people dead. Decreased morbidity means less people sick. Who gives a damn how “healthful” something is? I don’t even know what that word means beyond the sales pitches offered by vitamin or health-foods commercials.

                    3. “it states that if 50% of the Japanese atomic bomb targets who were exposed to 4 Sv of dose died because of radiation, then when one million people are exposed to a collective dose of 40 man-Sv of radiation, we would expect 5 people to die from this radiation. (Of course, I’m simplifying a bit. Actually, the current models would predict that only 2.5 to 3.3 people would die from this radiation, depending on whom you asked.) This is what the LNT model says.
                      Brian

                    4. EL:
                      “can you please provide me with this strange (non-scientific) source that suggests LNT has anything to do with cancer mortality?”
                      Oh, geez, where to start? You can begin by reading some of the BEIR reports or the recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (IRCP). That would be a start.
                      BEIR, for example, lists the excess cases of cancer from exposure to 100 mSv, and also gives the excess deaths from exposure to this dose. In fact, BEIR VII was the first report to provide estimates for both cancer incidence and cancer mortality. The previous reports focused on mortality data only.
                      Where do you think that the 4000 or 9000 deaths from Chernobyl came from? The Chernobyl Forum simply took the LNT radiation risk model from the 1990 recommendations of ICRP and performed a simplistic arithmetical analysis. They multiplied the very small doses that each person received by a great number of people. Then they applied the radiation risk factor from the atomic bomb survivor studies to this collective dose to get the estimated death count, even though this simple analysis defies common sense.
                      Later, Greenpeace and the European Green Party abused this analysis further by adding even more people with even tinier exposures to yield a more satisfactory (for them) death toll in the tens of thousands. All of this was done with the LNT model.
                      Nevertheless, you do have a point. An LD-50 dose of 4 Sv is for acute exposure with no medical intervention. If medical intervention is taken into account, the LD-50 dose could go as high as 10 Sv.
                      “Strictly speaking, LNT has to do with measuring risk and probabilities. In particular, looking at genetic damage as a consequence of radiation exposure, and the likelihood for developing cancer (this seems pretty straightforward to me). But don’t take my word for it. The Uranium Institute in 1998 (the first source that came up in my search) describes it this way: …”
                      I’m fully aware of the completely naive assumptions that form the basis of the LNT model. High school physics students do many classical mechanics problems while ignoring the effects of friction. Such assumptions might be instructive, but neither accurately depicts the real world.
                      Stop getting bogged down in irrelevant details. I’m talking about how the LNT model is applied. The risks that are “measured” with the LNT are mortality and morbidity, not any kind of precancerous genetic damage that is repaired or goes away.
                      My interest in radiation hormesis stems from the realization that it is likely to be true, since fairly solid evidence exists that demonstrates its effect. Call me strange, but I prefer to work with assumptions that are backed by scientific evidence rather than models that we know to be untrue.
                      Hormesis might ultimately have useful medical applications, in that radiation hormesis conditioning could be used to lower the risks of some radiation treatments and imaging technology. There are researchers who are investigating this. However, I think that the hormesis hypothesis will have scored a major victory if it finally gets the epidemiologists to stop explaining away obvious hormetic effects in their data by introducing bizarre statistical models or spurious “healthy worker effects” or simply omitting data that do not support their preconceived LNT-based notions. That would be quite a revolution.

                    5. Brian – There is (I would think) a difference between accepting that there is a body of evidence supporting RH based on observations of mortality rates in populations with histories of higher than average background ionizing radiation doses, from NORM or workplace exposure, and advancing the idea that low-dose radiation should be administered as a cancer preventative. While I assert the former without reservation, I do not suggest the latter until more research is done. As for promoting RH in general, at this point I am only suggesting that in the context of the nuclear energy debate, its utility lies in refuting LNT. I would not be comfortable, nor do I think it would be productive, to start a campaign suggesting that containment thresholds be relaxed at nuclear facilities because “the radiation is good for you”. That is what I mean by ‘not promoting RH.’
                      It is not a matter of being defensive per se, as I was mostly correcting Chris Fahlman’s interpretation of my position. As for the medical utility of low doses of radiation or prolonged mild doses of radiation, I find this work of interest, but I will leave it to those in nuclear medicine/radiotherapy to make that determination.

                    6. DV82XL – I’m just paraphrasing the recent scientific literature. Take whatever position you want.

  2. Consider this possibility, several wealthy individuals in Westchester (of which there are more than a few) don’t want a nasty nuclear plant on their doorstep. They make large political contributions and so have a large influence on government officials. They also don’t care if their utility bills rise (no big deal for them). I think it is too simple to continue with the meme, ‘government is the problem’. It’s that money has hijacked the government in so many areas. Ironically made possible largely by the ‘government is the problem’ philosophy.

    1. @SteveK9 – the rich people in Westchester are not rich in a vacuum. They are rich partially because they live in a vibrant and productive area of the country that has a transportation system that operates reasonably well, reliable power that can feed communication systems and computers, and can support the general population well enough so that they do not feel the need to start protesting and demanding a more equitable distribution of wealth.
      They are wealthy because they have had access to good schools, they have not had the government knocking at their doors and tossing them into jail for no good reason, and they have not had their capital destroyed in territorial battles.
      They should recognize that they are privileged and understand that privilege comes with some responsibility. They should take a good look around the world to see what can eventually happen when the privileged look out only for themselves and fail to share. It really can be a very short journey from a life of luxury to one of complete chaos and deprivation. One of the enormous strengths of America is that there was a long and productive period in which we had people who recognized that we were all in this together and that there was at least some obligations that come along with being one of the winners in the game of life.
      Maybe I am too much of an optimist, but I do not think that attitude has entirely disappeared. It needs to be found and nurtured. We also need to remember how to shame people who act selfishly and how to remind them that their actions have consequences. Some jail time for the cheats who cause economic hardships for others might help.

  3. This is what always gets me regarding the waste problem – the fact that other energy sources get what amounts to a free ride. Classic example of the perfect as the enemy of the good. Further, you rightly point out that, by the numbers, the next replacement source in line isn’t solar or wind, it’s coal and natural gas. One might quibble that coal has little new future, but still – the fact is, to complain about dry storage of nuclear at all while sitting back and letting coal dump toxic fumes in the air every single day is preposterous.

  4. One thing I’ve wondered over the past few years. . . I totally understand the argument that you guys make, that it is safe to store this stuff on site. But, I think there is, perhaps, a good argument to be made for setting up some short-term (designed to hold the waste for maybe 100-200 years) regional repositories around the country. Perhaps 5 or 6 sites, built to have the waste shipped to them, and be stored “short term” (by short term, here, I mean less than 1000 years). These would be, probably, government built and run, and would serve two purposes, really:
    First, I think the public would view that as the government actually coming up with a “plan” instead of just leaving the stuff sitting there. Two, and more importantly in my mind – I still am a big believer that fast breeder reactors are the future of power in our country (or a Thorium MSR designed to burn off our current wastes, probably both). I think the real, ultimate solution is to take the waste, and cycle it through such types of reactors. If we’re going to do that, it would be advantageous to have all the waste gathered into central repositories, or ‘fuel banks’, if you will, where it can then be shipped to wherever it’s needed, as it’s needed.

    1. @Jeff – regional storage is a decent strategy – far better, in my opinion, than trying to put all of the used material in one of the most inaccessible locations in the US, only to someday want to get the material back out of that inaccessible location. (The cost of transporting inventory from one place to another is pure waste and adds no value at all.)
      Those regional locations should be chosen to be able to take advantage of existing infrastructure as much as possible. They should be readily reachable by transportation systems (rail or river) that can handle large cargoes – casks are not designed to be moved by standard trucks.
      It would be best if the industry itself stood up and claimed both capability and responsibility. They should simply tell the government that they know the material, they know how to properly handle it, they are not concerned about making the system work well, and they are willing to handle the costs as simply part of the cost of doing business. That kind of communication would go a long way toward a declaration that nuclear technology is fully competitive and able to provide for itself. It does not need to be a ward of the state any longer.
      In return, the industry should ask to be given full and complete title to the material with no restrictions on its use other than to demonstrate protection of public safety. Of course, demonstrating public safety includes showing how they keep the material from ending up in the hands of people who want to use it to harm people rather than using it to produce products aimed at improving people’s lives.
      I am not someone who believes that “government is the problem.” In a democracy, government is a shared responsibility. However, taking care of the various parts of a profit making enterprise is not a fundamental function that everyone needs to share – people and corporations have responsibilities that they should not foist off on others. I have no problem helping people who cannot help themselves or even providing enabling assistance for people (and corporations) who can help themselves and eventually pay back that assistance.
      It is time for the nuclear industry to declare that it is mature, responsible and capable.

        1. @Brian – please explain how you put a cask weighing 100 tons onto a standard truck. In most states the weight limit for an 18 wheeler is roughly 30 ton (63,000 lbs).

          1. Correction – standard 18 wheeler weight limit is 40 tons including the tractor. The point remains that this limit is well below the weight of the casks being used to store used fuel. There may be less massive casks designed for truck shipment, and there may be specialized trucks that can move heavier cargos, but standard casks do not fit on standard trucks. The need for special designs always leads to higher costs.

                1. Have you forgotten already about all of the fights and un-built “Low Level Storage” facilities??? And you propose “High Level Storage Facilities?” (ROLOL) I would not buy any of their stock.
                  Yucca Mt. is designed for 10,000 years. It is completely illogical to assume that mankind would not have found some value in that stored “waste” in 1,000 years (if still here), let alone 100 years. In 100 years we will be “mining” today’s Garbage Mountains.

                  1. Under current US law, Yucca Mountain would not close — and the used fuel would be required to be fully retrievable — for a period of about 100 years after the last bit of “waste” is loaded into the repository.
                    That’s plenty of time to figure out a better use for the “waste.” If mankind cannot accomplish that in a century, then perhaps he does not deserve to have access to the material.

              1. As DV82XL points out, there are shipping casks that will fit on a truck. They might weigh something like 25 tons.

  5. There is a difference between the waste from a coal plant and the waste from a nuclear plant. For the moment, leave aside the fact the most of the waste from a coal plant is dumped into the air. The ash from coal plants is used to a small degree, but the volumes are so overwhelming that little can be used. And the uses are not of high value. The waste from a conventional nuclear plant is very small in volume. And most of that waste is really potential energy, giving nuclear waste much greater value than coal waste.
    The nuclear fuel was used to produce a high value product (electrical energy), and what we now consider waste has the potential to produce about 20 times more electrical energy than the fuel did the first time around. Coal ash may have some uses, but not at 20 times the value of the original coal.

    1. Don’t think of coal ash as waste; think of it as one step in the process of recovering uraniuim and thorium from low grade ore. I could see a future where the use sythesizes jet fuel from coal (already tested in USAF B-52s) using the waste heat from nuclear reactors. The uranium content of coal is pretty low, but when you burn off all the carbon the uranium remains behind. I read one analysis by someone from Oak Ridge Labs that the accessible energy from the uranium and thorium in coal ash is at least as much as was gained from burning the coal.

      1. @John, though I didn’t mention it, I had the uranium and thorium content of coal ash in mind as I wrote my original statement. While it is true that the energy content of the nuclear fertile material in coal ash is possibly as great or greater than the energy content of the original coal, it is still a long ways from the energy content of what is left in spent nuclear fuel. This difference becomes huge when making the comparison on a volume or mass basis.
        Even if we did extract uranium and thorium from coal ash for use in breeder reactors, at the end of the day we have only doubled the amount of energy from the coal, and (worse yet), we are still left with huge mounds of coal ash of little value. But we can take a very small volume/mass of spent nuclear fuel, put it in those same reactors, and get 20 times more energy than we got the first time around.

  6. I have a tendency to view this story as good news for the industry. Interim and ad hoc approaches to waste storage (after debacle of Yucca Mountain) give absolutely no public confidence in waste storage issue. Court cases like this keep the pressure on the federal government to come up with permanent and financially viable long term solutions. What to do with the industry funds that have been collected for waste storage, taxpayer liabilities and mounting court cases on failing to meet federal obligations, are all outstanding and serious issues in need of a resolution (if just on a financial basis). Extending approvals for on-site storage on a long term “interim” basis (language just doesn’t seem to capture the strangeness of the current situation) is a good way to avoid looking at and addressing all of these pressing issues (which I think only hurts the industry in the long run).

    1. “Court cases like this keep the pressure on the federal government to come up with permanent and financially viable long term solutions.”
      The federal government already came up with a permanent and financially viable long term solution. Some self-serving politicians recently screwed it up.
      “What to do with the industry funds that have been collected for waste storage, …”
      Either spend it on what it was collected for, or return it, along with the used fuel, to the owners of the nuclear reactors that generated the so-called “waste.” That’s the ethical thing to do. It’s as simple as that.
      “taxpayer liabilities and mounting court cases on failing to meet federal obligations, …”
      That is the responsibility of the taxpayers, who as voters elected leaders who failed to keep the government’s promises. If you don’t like it, then don’t vote for politicians like Reid and Obama, who have defied both US law and the will of Congress, which constitutionally is the only body with the power to decide what happens to Yucca Mountain and the used fuel that should go there.
      The President, the Secretary of Energy, and the Senator from Nevada don’t get to decide these matters.
      “… a good way to avoid looking at and addressing all of these pressing issues …”
      What is so “pressing”? Is the material going to pose a threat tomorrow? No. Is it going to pose a threat next year? No. Is it going to pose a threat ten, twenty, or fifty years from now? Again, no. It will simply sit in pools of water or specially designed casks until somebody has a new place to put it, whether it’s buried or burned as new nuclear fuel.
      Even some state legislatures are beginning to pass bills to repeal the moratoriums on new nuclear plants that depend on a solution to the “waste problem.” This issue becomes less “pressing” every year.
      If, however, you’re still in a hurry to get things done, then let the NRC do its job. It has four years to review the license application for Yucca Mountain and give a go or a no-go for a repository. Considering the massive amount of scientific evidence and engineering analysis that has gone into the application, I predict that it will be approved.

      1. @Brian. I agree with you, the Federal Government dropped the ball and strategic political calculations (turning Nevada into a blue state) played a role. But this speaks to me of the great challenge of the issue, and that the Federal government has no clear winning path other than delay and deferment, at the same time that local constituencies continue to be up in arms about what they perceive to be health risks, national security, and other concerns. The industry can’t simply “pass the buck” to the Federal Government, and then wipe it’s hands clean of the issue. It needs to step up its efforts (if it wants to provide clear and meaningful leadership), and hold the Federal government accountable for its mutually agreed upon responsibilities.
        I thought the Yucca issue was dead at this point, but looking into it after your comment, it seems like the vote to cut off funding fell far short on a bi-partisan vote (388 to 30). So I agree with you again

  7. I live in New York State and I’m fairly angry that my state tax dollars are being used for this frivolous lawsuit against the NRC which will defend itself using my federal tax dollars, I get poorer and the lawyers get richer.

  8. I am gearing up to give my All Around the Coal Boiler Course again. Rod, thank you for this post. I found this publication very good when discussing coal ash. Note the radiographic tracking picture of the ash particle as figure 3.
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/FS-163-97.html
    One of the things I sometimes say is that the toxic particles in coal ash are often “weaponized”. That is, instead of rods in a cask in a bigger cask in a stronger cask…these toxic particles are at just the right size to inhale. In other words, weaponized.
    By the way, I think coal deserves respect. My coal course is NOT weeks of coal-bashing. Coal makes a lot of our power, and it will take years to phase out. Good people have spent entire lifetimes figuring out how to clean it up.
    So I guess I have mixed feelings about coal. I am sure, however, that it is time to replace it with nuclear!

  9. A large coal plant produces over 500 pounds of CO2 per second. You just can’t shove that under the carpet. The coal industry uses carbon capture and sequestration as an excuse to build more coal plants. I have been to plants which said they were

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