1. Hi Rod. I’ve an observation and a question. First, that Dr. Macfarlane’s assertion

    that the United States must continue pursuing a mined geologic repository because we have a “long-established responsibility to site a repository for the permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel,” and she wants to make sure that the NRC’s determination that continued surface storage represents a small environmental impact for the indefinite future does not enable “avoiding this necessary task.”

    — is pretty much mandated by the Nuclear Waste Authorization Act as amended, establishing Yucca Mountain as the nation’s mined geologic repository for the permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel, as has been confirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

    In which light such language is pretty much a required part of Dr. Macfarlane’s public statements.

    End observation, on to the question(s):

    1. For political and economic purposes, how definite is indefinite? The generally bandied-about storage term for un-reprocessed used nuclear fuel is around 200,000 years give or take, and there may be some skepticism — justified or not — raised by nearby residents (and perhaps the odd anti-nuclear activist) whether dry-cask surface storage can maintain integrity for that long.

    2. So your and probably NRC’s perception (and hope) is that “indefinite” will in practice prove something less than a century and that we will be well on our way toward commissioning Gen IV waste burners well before then. But when? The answer does have political consequence.

    3. In wake of NRC’s oft-delayed design certification approval of GE-H’s ESBWR last week, a comment on another site suggested inquiries r.e. the status of GE-H PRISM might search NRC’s ADAMS database for “PROJ0674” (although a complementary google is also beneficial). I haven’t found much, only three documents. The first was a 508 page “Submittal of Licensing Strategy Document for PRISM” dated 21 April 2010 from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Jerald Head to the U.S. NRC. The second was NRC’s polite reply 18 May 2010 to the effect

    “(NRC is) primarily focused on our preparations related to the Next Generation
    Nuclear Plant program and integral pressurized water reactors. For fiscal years 2010 through
    2011, the staff will, because of resource constraints, continue to limit interactions with the
    designers of other advanced reactor designs to occasional meetings or other non-resource-
    intensive activities. Should you submit a design review application during this time, the staff will
    conduct an acceptance review of the application when it is received. The design review will
    commence once resources are available. While resource constraints may limit our interactions,
    we encourage your continued participation in generic activities related to SMRs and please
    keep us informed of your plans related to the development of PRISM-related design or licensing

    There is an identical letter from NRC to Mr. Head dated 23 May 2011 reiterating that position. Those are all I’ve found.

    Ummm. Okay. But what is an “integral pressurized water reactor”, and what does it or any of the rest of DOE’s SMR program have to do with closing the fuel cycle and reducing long-term waste management? As far as I can tell, PRISM is the only completed current design that addresses this issue directly. (TAP’s molten salt waste annihilator design is not yet complete.)

    There is a cryptic note in a GE-H PR Piece: “With the Obama administration having scrapped funding for the project, the opportunity is there for the UK to exploit.” The UK opportunity is with respect to their excess plutonium “problem”. I assume the referred Obama action was his dialing out of the liquid metal fast reactor program at INL. But in specific regard to PRISM, was there something more?

    Its all a bit of a muddle. While I fully expect NRC to complete its Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report, YM still cannot open without state of Nevada approval, which won’t happen anytime real soon, and in any event will hopefully be obviated by closing the fuel cycle. But how do we proceed? The aforementioned GE-H “Licensing Strategy Document for PRISM” prominently mentions “This strategy changes the time frame for safe and secure waste management within a geologic repository” which GE-H will probably wish to revise in light of NUREG 5127, should they even choose to restart their US PRISM push in NRC’s Brave New Post-Jaczko World.

    There may be some other prismatic aspects GE-H might wish to revisit as well. Do they need NRC assurance a formal PRISM design certification application will be considered? What is NRC’s role here? Its surely not just the fuel cycle — PRISM has some unique design features that allegedly will make it even safer than ESBWR, but that of course remains to be determined as part of… NRC design certification.

    I admit to suffering a moderate case of disillusion. Does the Administration’s “All of the Above” energy strategy actually include nuclear? Does “Support for Safe Nuclear Power” actually include provenly safe nuclear power of a design scale that might (eventually) dent ghg emissions? It’s hard to imagine GE-H wishes to walk away from PRISM after so many years, but when can they restart? How much of their staff needs be committed to their ESBWR customer’s (if they still have any) COL applications? How much will any of this depend on reform of fossil fuel and intermittent production subsidies?

    And so on. Thanks!

    1. @Ed Leaver

      You’ve asked several questions.

      1. I don’t assume anything about the longevity of used nuclear fuel or the containers. I assume that responsible humans will continue to perform any necessary container maintenance or replacement tasks. My proposal says nothing about walking away. It’s not a “hope”; it’s a plan.

      2. The term “integral pressurized water reactor” describes systems like mPower, NuScale, and the Westinghouse SMR. To a slightly lesser extent, it applies to the Holtec SMR. It means that components like the pressurizer, steam generators, and reactor pressure vessel are integrated into a single pressure vessel to reduce the amount of piping and the vulnerability to large loss of coolant accidents.

      3. As near as I can determine, the Administration’s “All of the above” strategy has gradually shifted to an “anything but nuclear” strategy that is similar to the political position of every Administration since Kennedy. (Actually, that is a purposeful bit of exaggeration. It would probably be closer to something like “nuclear as a last resort when all else has proven its limitations” strategy.)

    2. In the UK:

      alongside the preferred option of re-use as Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX), there are two other credible options, the PRISM reactor proposed by GE Hitachi and a Candu MOX reactor proposed by SNC Lavalin. We (NDA) will now carry out further work to underpin the cases for these options

      UK NDA

  2. Excellent commentary, Rod.

    First, “Acts” as such can change. The Nuclear Waste Authorization Act can and should be changed. The French version of this, passed in the late 1970s I think, requires that *any* geological repository allow for a ‘two-way transfer” so that when isotopes are found to be valuable or useful they can be removed easily from the Repository and reprocessed. This should be included.

    However…what we need is Nuclear Waste Recycling Program that can look to everything from the latest technology for reprocessing to the use of various forms of new Gen IV reactors using SNF as feed stock. This doesn’t yet exist but any such amendments should clearly spell this out.

    We need a national *plan* to develop recycling of SNF. Until we have that any sort of geological repository is skipping a needed historical step.

    David Walters

  3. Thanks Rod, David. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this thing, so help me out here, okay? First off, what do we call this Proliferation Resistant Fast Reactor Fuel Formerly Known For Regulatory Purposes As Waste? We need some catchy acronym, and PRFRFFKFRPAW sounds too, I don’t know… too Russian.

    Second and to one of David Walter’s points, I thought Yucca Mountain was chosen precisely because it is dry and affords a two-way street. But it isn’t universally popular and on another thread Rod and a few others observed that by the time you railroad PRFRF from wherever to Boondoggle Nevada, transfer from dry-cask to compact engineered storage cask, dig yourself into a hole, stand guard for a few decades in the cooler, retrieve the PRFRF, re-transfer to shipping containers and railroad from Boondoggle back to wherever a fast reactor might await, you might as well save your car fare and leave it underground in perpetuity, ‘cuz what with all that S&H, PRFRF will never be economically competitive with FRF made afresh from newly mined uranium and thorium, depleted uranium, spent weapons grade plutonium, or fresh PRFRF hot out of LWRs in the first place.

    That’s if economics is even a concern. It might not be. I watched the U-Tube of Dr. Macfarlane’s September 2013 command performance before House Energy and Commerce Environment and Economy subcommittee last night. Lois Capps (D. San Lois Obispo) stressed to Dr. Macfarlane that indefinite storage of PRFRF onsite at Diablo Canyon was of great concern to her constituents, and as far as I can see NRC’s dry-cask safety determination does not take DOE off the hook for relieving reactor sites of that resource should local citizenry feel otherwise.

    [As an aside, last month the top E&C leadership has publicly endorsed NRC’s NUREG 5127 dry-cask storage finding. That’s Fred Upton, John Shimkus, and Ed Whitfield. No hard feelings, then.]

    However, as far as I can see, neither does NWPA require immediate deep storage of any PRFRF DOE is forced to accept. Interim secure surface or near-surface storage should suffice. But David Walter is correct: we *do* need an national plan for how best to exploit this resource, and store it until we do. We can’t just blow off California residents with “so write your congress critters and deal with it” because obviously they have: Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is co-sponsor of S-1240, which would implement the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) recommendations concerning consent-based siting and interim storage of PRFRN against its eventual use for its originally intended purpose.

    Given the majority leader’s insistence on consent-based siting, one wonders why S-1240 hasn’t seen more action. One possible reason is that some democratic committee members might not feel comfortable taking such a vote. My own senator might be one of them, and I’m trying to figure out how NUREG 5127 might be leveraged to joggle his mind. On the one hand Mark Udall is the senate’s leading proponent of wind PTC, while E&NR chairman and S-1240 sponsor Ron Wyden (D-OR) is a leading wind PTC critic. On the other hand we Coloradans somehow manage our own private PRFRF stash at Fort St. Vrain, which if Mark’s Boulder constituents ever got wind of they might want to see removed, which isn’t going to happen without S-1240. But Senator Udall is facing a critically stiff re-election fight; I don’t look for any substantive statement from him until after November.

    But it holds certain attraction. Sustainable energy jobs are pretty popular these parts, and there’s hardly anything more sustainable than used nuclear fuel. We’ve got a large but little-used and highly terrorist-resistant bunker sitting near-surface southwest of Colorado Springs, and XCEL Energy’s nearby Valmont Generating Station, a filthy coal plant in desperate need of retirement, would make an ideal location for the world’s first clean commercial IFR. Who knows?

    1. @Ed Leaver

      NUREG 2157 provides a GEIS for “away from reactor” storage. Several already exist and the GEIS envisions more. DOE ownership is not required by NRC regs. The GEiS also covers one-time transportation to those facilities.

      I don’t expect that all existing facilities will continue to operate spent fuel facilities once the facility is no longer home to a generating plant. There will be enterprises that focus on profiting from taking care of used nuclear material.

      I also hope that people recognize that the highest and best use of an existing nuclear power plant site is a new nuclear power plant, which would prevent the creation of any more orphaned storage areas.

      1. Not to mention most profitable. Seemingly overnight your generic combined construction and operating license has frankensteined into a combined construction, operating, and store-used-fuel-indefinitely permit. From San Onofre Decommissioning Progress:

        In August, 2014 SCE announced that decommissioning will cost $4.4 billion and take 20 years; spent fuel is to be held on-site in dry casks indefinitely.

        So there’s no rush. Having surrendered their operating license, SCE presumably now has most of that 4.4 billion as cash in hand. Probably too risky to do it today, but one can a imagine a not-too-distant future where SCE would use part of those billions to fund an IFR whose revenues would then partially fund decommissioning of the old LWRs, the used fuel from which would run the IFR, without any additional fuel purchase, for… 600 years.

        Gad. Talk about a license to print money. In perpetuity. Does Wall Street Know? 😮

        1. I don’t get these numbers. How can you spend $4.4 billion on a block of concrete and steel which mostly isn’t even radioactive at all.

          What I do know is when it comes to radioactive stuff, it pays to have patience. The bad stuff decays the fastest so all you have to do is wait. While you wait something good happens, it is called interest rate on your money. Your money is worth more over time! So you have more money as years pass and the bad stuff becomes less bad. You don’t have to be a math wiz to see there’s going to be a cross over line where it just becomes so attractive to recycle all those tens of thousands of tonnes of high quality steel…

          1. Oh I agree. SCE probably figures only 20 years for SONGS because they can’t use the site for more nuclear anyway (which could change over twenty years) and SONGS is prime beach-front property. But for now and the forseeable future, Californians want to get out of the in-state nuke business and get to importing Wyoming Wind and Utah nuclear as soon as possible. Before those bean-counters across the street from the Temple wake up to just how dear Green River water is relative to the Pacific.

  4. “As long as we do not believe that future generations will forget how to read, we can be sure enough that they will remember how to keep used nuclear fuel safely isolated.”

    And if they have forgotten how to read, they’ve had problems which reduce lifespans so much as to make exposure to spent nuclear fuel irrelevant.

  5. Sirs:

    I could do a little research on this, but I’ll just ask instead. What do other countries plan to do with their nuclear waste? France was mentioned. There’s Mexico, Canada, Brazil, India, Germany, England, Russia, Sweden, Finland, China, Japan, Korea etc. They’ve all got nukes. Do they have plans?

    1. Eino: There’s reprocessing, and there’s reprocessing. The two are disambiguated at Processing of Used Nuclear Fuel. Policy by country under Country Profiles. Short answer for sequestration is although no one is really far along, Finland and Sweden have a rock solid lead. France is firming up. Reprocessing is done in France, Russia, and the U.K. Russia has an ongoing program to close the fuel cycle with fast breeders, is where international research went after the United States got out of the business.

  6. One rational plan would be to consume the transuranics in fast spectrum reactors. I’d recommend the size to be small (100 MWe) and to be sited at each of our national research labs if willing. I figure the labs would both be secure and have highly trained personnel, and the small sized reactors would be easier to handle.

    The cladding would be recycled; the uranium returned to a mine (or enriched by SILEX [if it works]); and the fission products could be separated for useful isotopes and/or vitrified.

    1. Transuranics are at least 1% of all SNF. The US has ~ 75,000 tonnes of SNF = 750 tonnes of TU. At a rate of 1 tonne burnt-up per 1GWe reactor/year (as it is in PRISM), that would take about 7500 years for a 100 MWe reactor to burn it all. 100 x 100MWe reactors will take 75 years to burn through it. Not quite enough to keep pace with new SNF produced by LWRs.

      Why not just build PRISM and transition to a nuclear electricity economy? In that case, all but 3% – 3.5% of the 75,000 tonnes of SNF become fuel. Another 700,000 tonnes of DU hexafluoride in stock can also fuel for PRISM too. I reckon the USA has enough SNF and DU in stock to power 1000 GWe of PRISM capacity for the next 700 years.

      1. I view the fast reactors with skepticism – large number of dollars and years have already been spent on it (billions and decades), and I am not a fan of liquid sodium. Even if the sodium is replaced with lead/bismuth I still see re-criticality in accident scenarios as a difficult problem to manage.

        Also, I do not see SNF produced by LWRs ad infinitum, so “keeping pace” is not really a criteria that I value. I do expect as we move to a nuclear electricity economy that 1.) the price for electricity to drop, and 2.) more industries will switch to electricity from fossil fuels (e.g. natural gas and fuel oil for heating) which will greatly increase the demand for nuclear power and fuel – so we probably will use up the TRUs faster than some projections.

      2. TRUs are decent startup fuel mixes. A 100 MWe PRISM could sink about 1 ton TRU as startup fuel, then operate on depleted uranium.

        So you could start up 750 x 100 MWe PRISMs on the 750 ton TRU waste. Only 75 GWe.

        We need more TRU waste, not less!

        1. Depending on the breeding ratio and my possibly-faulty recall (the GEH paper I read is either hidden or been replaced by one without firm figures), the S-PRISM requires either about 2.3 or 2.4 tons of fissiles per fuel load (depending on choice of axial reflectors or breeding blankets), 3 fuel loads per reactor (one in use, one cooling, one reprocessing).  That’s about 20 tons TRUs per GW(e).  Agreed:  there aren’t enough TRUs in the USA’s supply of SNF to seriously challenge fossil-fired generation using S-PRISMs.  Also, the natural growth rate was disappointingly low.

          That’s why I was so enthused about Transatomic Power’s concept:  if their claims were accurate, they’d broken the TRU-limitation barrier and could start some hundreds of GW of reactors on the SNF already available.  Fresh fuel could be enriched to 1.8% from natural uranium and burnup would be tens of times as much as with LWRs, slashing uranium requirements and making the supply effectively inexhaustible at current rates of energy use.

          But you say their bimodal spectrum won’t yield the results they claim.  I’m not sure who to believe at this point.

    2. @Jim L
      Just burning transuranics ignores 0.4% of U-234 in the SNF. That’s another 300 tonnes of an alpha-emitter with a 246,000 year half-life.

      1. Alpha emitters concern me not at all. You may wish to make it sound like there is a lot by referencing 300 tons, but given the density of uranium….its really not that much. But I’m all for a freer market, reasonably regulated, where some outfit may wish to use the U234 (or other elements & isotopes) in useful ways.

      2. @Mark Pawelek: How does one just burn the transuranics? I thought all actinides are fast neutron toast?

  7. @Rod Adams
    “the Administration’s “All of the above” strategy has gradually shifted to an “anything but nuclear” strategy that is similar to the political position of every Administration since Kennedy.”

    While not wanting to start a Republicans vs Democrats thing, I feel that historical accuracy is important. “anything but nuclear” is an accurate description of Carter, Clinton, and Obama but not Reagan/Bush or Bush who promoted nuclear.

    Carter banned reprocessing and Reagan rescinded the ban. Kerry led the charge to stop the Clinch River Breeder Reactor and Reagan/Bush pushed IFR/LMFBR/pyroprocessing so that in the early 90’s the GE PRISM SFR reactor passed the early review procedure of the NRC. Then Clinton canceled IFR/LMFBR and shut down EBR-II, an SFR, that had been operating successfully for 30 years. Bush revived nuclear using the Advanced Burner Reactor/pyroprocessing to breathe new life into the SFR and address the waste issue and GNEP to overcome the proliferation argument. Obama canceled ABR/pyroprocessing and GNEP, appointed Jacko to head the NRC, canceled Yucca Mountain, and shut down the NRC for at least 2 years to deal with the lack of a waste disposal plan. The latest 2 appointments to the NRC are probably anti nuclear, MacFarlane is a pleasant surprise, and Moniz is at best a squishy supporter of nuclear. And the EPA is about to issue an anti greenhouse gas rule that penalizes nuclear relative to solar and wind.

    Big Green, a very important part of the Democratic coalition is also fanatically anti nuclear, although some cracks are beginning to appear in this position led by individual environmentalists but still opposed the major organizations.

    In summary, Republican admins have promoted nuclear (IFR/LMFBR/pyroprocessing, ABR/pyroprocessing/GNEP) while Democratic admins have pursued the “anything but nuclear” policy by banning reprocessing, shutting down EBR-II, IFR/LMFBR, ABR, pyroprocessing, GNEP, and Yucca Mountain.

      1. And Watts Bar, Vogtle, North Anna and possibly Bellefonte will happen in spite of and not because of that Occupier of the White House.

      2. @JohnGalt

        Your link provides no information about how the claimed nuclear R&D figure was computed or which programs were included. It did not indicate which GAO report it was using as a reference.

        I suspect that a significant portion of that money was actually spent on weapons-related R&D. Some might also have been associated with Yucca Mountain and provided from the utility-funded Nuclear Waste Fund.

  8. @John Galt:
    Your conflation of nuclear weaponry with commercial nuclear power generation is typical, but lends no credibility to your anti-nuclear argument. A commercial fission reactor is not an atomic bomb and cannot explode like one.

    I’d suggest you look into the collection and accounting of the Nuclear Waste Fund. The fees were very real, appeared on very real customers bills, and accrued very real interest. A very real portion of both principle and interest was spent on Yucca Mountain, but by no means all:

    The fund’s balance is about $28.2 billion, according to a fee report filed with the court by DOE in January (2013). Interest contributes about $1.5 billion a year to the fund, on top of the $750 million collected annually from nuclear utility customers, the report noted.

    The fee collected was one tenth of one cent on each kilowatt sold from a commercial nuclear power plant. While certainly true that government programs tend to expand to exceed the funds available, such has not been the case with the Nuclear Waste Fund and Yucca Mountain (despite best efforts). See Federal court orders suspension of US DOE nuclear waste fund fee. Thanks!

  9. What should we do with the waste?

    Figure out a way to divert the decay heat into my house during the winter and I will happily store a couple casks on my yard. I could then build an observation deck on top and enjoy the treeless views of Eastern Washington while paying nothing to heat my house.

    Also…..what a talking piece it would be during parties.

  10. As summarized in section 8 of the document, the staff determined that the environmental impact under expected conditions is small and acceptable even for an indefinite period of time.

    @Rod Adams.

    You should post a link to the previous article and discussion of this topic on your blog (where much of the same information is presented and more fully discussed).


    Once again, environmental impact of indefinite storage is not the only concern discussed in GEIS (and the comment from Macfarlane on her yes and no vote). You appear to have left out of your discussion, for a second time, a fuller and more direct consideration of known and documented terrorism risks from onsite storage facilities (here); rising higher future security costs from aged spent fuel that is less self-protecting; institutional, political, global security challenges and high costs of waste recycling (and that storage facilities are still needed); burden on future generations (who will be asked to do far more than read warning signs); risks from loss of institutional controls (especially in less stable countries where nuclear will be used, not just in US); progress and commitment to passive geological isolation in other countries (notably France where nuclear faces fewer institutional challenges than in the US); adverse impacts to business case for nuclear (already facing challenges) from indefinite storage allowances and how utilities, investors, and national governments will be asked to take on additional long term liabilities, challenges, and indefinite future responsibilities and costs; and more …

    There is no reason to expect that society will forget the lessons it has already learned.

    An odd assumption, to say the least. We continue to have industrial accidents (that are costly for individuals, communities, and society). We continue to recover slowly from a recent global recession created by bad policy and high risk financial products (despite knowing how to minimize such risks and actively repealing sensible policies from the past). We continue to pollute our atmosphere with dangerous heat trapping compounds (and seem incapable of coordinated international action to mitigate documented high risk and high cost impacts). We continue to engage in foreign policy actions that harm national security, fail, give rise to global insecurity, or exacerbate conditions intended to avoid or minimize. The lesson from history is that history repeats itself, all too often with entirely predictable consequences. As you say above, if the planning for geological storage can be undone so easily by people in one country with stable and well organized institutions and checks and balances (perhaps even by the capricious and irrational acts of a single individual as you have described), where do you get such faith in the longevity and progressive wisdom of human institutions (and the notion that society learns it’s lessons absolutely, rationally, and perfectly). What society … and what time frame?

    “Forgetting” isn’t the risk that worries us, but the one you describe so well with the intractable nature of the problem (i.e., the misuse of power). What is it about power that makes it fully capable of obstructing the building of geological repositories, but doing no worse harm to long lived nuclear waste (and interim/indefinite storage facilities mandating active human oversight and significant costs and institutional controls for as long as those products and facilities exist)?

    I don’t expect that all existing facilities will continue to operate spent fuel facilities once the facility is no longer home to a generating plant. There will be enterprises that focus on profiting from taking care of used nuclear material.

    If the business case for nuclear can be improved by consolidating and “taking care of” nuclear material in a market and private sector basis, then it’s time to get busy. Such businesses will likely also require geological repositories for long lived waste, so I’m not sure how hemming and hawing about the intractable nature of the problem gets us there?

    1. @EL

      Thank you for the reminder to add the previous post and discussion as a related link.

      I did not mention the items in your comment because they are distractions, not real issues. Instead of pointing to a study declaring that spent fuel is vulnerable to terrorist attack, how about providing just one example of an attempted attack on a spent fuel facility. They’re not attractive targets for a variety of good reasons.

      My comment about not forgetting what we know how to do was not political, but technical. We know how to build secure storage facilities that need little or no outside support.

      In response to your final paragraph, under current law, private industry is not allowed to take title to used fuel or to recycle it for beneficial use. A few amended sections would enable those activities and improve the potential of attracting the needed investment.

      1. Instead of pointing to a study declaring that spent fuel is vulnerable to terrorist attack, how about providing just one example of an attempted attack on a spent fuel facility.

        Do you forget the fateful memo: “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.”

        There are plenty of groups who have expressed an interest in obtaining nuclear materials, have even been successful doing so, and targeting nuclear facilities. Typically, one wishes to respond to such threats before they happen, and not after the fact (for events and long lasting consequences that can no longer be prevented). “Bring it on …” is not a particularly effective risk prevention strategy.

        1. @EL

          Nothing you said applies to used fuel facilities. We are not talking about unprotected or easily moved stocks of nuclear materials here.

          Expressing interest is perhaps 1% — or less — of the way to “planned attack.”

        2. What you don’t mention, EL, is that we should be thrilled if one of OBL’s devotees decided to strike a store of spent fuel casks.

          First, they’d have to get through the security perimeter (likely triggering a security response).

          Then they’d have to get through the reinforced concrete overpacks.

          Then they’d have to open the inner stainless-steel casks.

          Before they got that far, the survivors would probably be hiding between the canisters against the ricochets from the multiple SWAT teams responding to the site, demanding their immediate surrender.  It would be one ignominous end to a venture that would never actually glorify Allah.  No 72 virgins for them.

          And if they succeeded, what would they have?  A heap of ceramic, dangerous to handle, and nearly impossible to convert into anything posing an acute threat that could not be evaded by… walking away.  Even the occasional “hot” particle that got onto someone’s clothing could be easily detected by a geiger counter and brushed off, or simply left behind by putting the clothes aside for decontamination.

          Al Qaeda is looking for a really BIG splash.  Know what they fear more than anything?  An attack that gets a “ho hum”.  Like attacking a spent fuel repository.

          1. What you don’t mention, EL, is that we should be thrilled if one of OBL’s devotees decided to strike a store of spent fuel casks


            As the GAO document reports, there are credible attack scenarios described in classified documents. The Sandia Labs study (which many cite, and is not fully reviewable as a public document) did not consider jet fuel in its model. The risks don’t appear to be so “ho hum” (seeing as none of us has access to these documents)? As you describe, we have multiple security perimeters around such sites, boosted security during heightened threat levels, and rapid response teams trained to respond with overwhelming force to any incidents. This is what meant by active human oversight and institutional controls.

            The responsibility, high cost, institutional, and intergenerational burden of maintaining these indefinite security services and continuous institutional controls (in contrast to passive storage alternatives over a period of 1,000 years and much longer) is what we are discussing. Not just in the US, but everywhere nuclear is seen to be viable and a sufficient, reliable, and competitive alternative to meeting our current and future energy and environmental challenges and needs.

            “Thrilled” (as you suggest) is clearly in the eyes of the beholder.

            1. @EL

              The risks don’t appear to be so “ho hum” (seeing as none of us has access to these documents)?

              Speak for yourself. Several people involved in discussions on this board have (or have had) access to detailed evaluations and scenarios.

              That is why I am quite confident in my yawning response to your “toss it out and see what sticks” comment.

          2. Several people involved in discussions on this board have (or have had) access to detailed evaluations and scenarios.

            @Rod Adams

            Is EP one of them?

            Where have they provided their comments on this topic in this thread (or elsewhere on the topic of terrorist threats and indefinite +100 years interim storage options for long lived waste). Because the people who have reviewed these documents summarize: “… there exists evidence that some hypothetical attack modes can penetrate and cause the release of radioactive material … the probability of a terrorist attack on spent fuel storage cannot be assessed quantitatively or comparatively and … it is not possible to predict the behavior and motivations of terrorists … NRC-sponsored studies … did not examine some low-probability scenarios that could result in severe consequences … Based on the analyses it did receive, the committee judges that no cask provides complete protection against all types of terrorist attacks” (cited from expert reviews in previous discussion thread).

            This isn’t what sticks … it’s what’s already stuck. Ignoring available evidence to the contrary (and citing unavailable comments from unspecified and likely highly pro-nuclear sources) doesn’t get us there. Particularly when an independent assessment of public risks and public costs are the issue.

            1. @EL

              No one is claiming perfection here. My judgement, the judgement of the NRC staff professionals, and the judgement of the NRC Commissioners is that the probabilities and consequences of “hypothetical attack modes” are low enough so there is no reason to use them as an excuse for insomnia or as a reason to avoid using nuclear energy.

              I’m not ignoring your evidence. I have listened, yawned and will move on to the important task of doing my darnedest to enable the creation as much ultra low carbon, reliable, affordable power as possible.

          3. Due the Howard Street Tunnel fire in Baltimore in July 2001, the NRC conducted an evaluation of spent fuel casks.

            Here is the link


            Here is the key quote:

            The Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) code developed by NIST was used to determine the thermal environment in the Howard Street tunnel during the fire. The FDS results were used as boundary conditions for the COBRA-SFS and ANSYS® computer models developed to evaluate the thermal performance of different package designs. The staff concluded that larger transportation packages resembling the TransNuclear Model No. TN-68 and HOLTEC Model No. HI-STAR 100 would withstand a fire with thermal conditions similar to those that existed in the Baltimore tunnel fire event with only minor damage to peripheral components. This is due to their sizable thermal inertia and design specifications in compliance with currently imposed regulatory requirements.

            The fire burned for 5 days.

            Temps reached as sustained level of 1500 degrees F

            Jet fuel will flash and then burn out very quickly unless a constant supply is available. A constant supply can be shut off, capped or otherwise stopped so that is not a viable scenario to consider.

            Spent fuel will not be moved with other dangerous cargo such as those covered by the new Global Harmonized Classification System. Spent fuel will be moved safely as it has already. DOE has already moved spent fuel around the country safely and without incident.


            So I am not concerned about a jet fuel fire, chemical fire, chemical spills etc. Already been analyzed. In fact every site has to analyze environmental threats as well as other threats when they install an ISFSI. Every cask designer has to prove their design can meet fire, impact and other environmental standards before the NRC will provide a license.

            EL several of us who comment or “lurk” here on Rod’s blog were,are and will continue to be involved with all this work on spent fuel transfers and transportation issues.

            As more sites move to dry storage the knowledge level of what it actually takes to gain access to the spent fuel increases. Knowledge and education of the technology and process is lowering the fear level regarding storing of spent fuel thereby proving knowledge can dispel fear created ay anti-nuclear groups.

            One of the design bases of nuclear security is that the bad guys have infinite resources and infinite time. That is the nuclear conservative method of design. Not reality but does lead to very robust designs.

            So whenever I read another report written by security experts or supposed experts (that would be the academics and consultants who have rarely, if ever set, foot on a nuclear power plant) that claim fuel can be accessed, I remind myself to read the base assumptions used to develop the study. Are they assuming infinite resources and infinite time? What resources are they assuming the bad guys are using – a tank, anti-tank weapons, anti-personnel weapons, etc.

            IOW I am not losing any sleep about fears regarding accessing spent fuel that have been ginned up by security consultants who need fear and paranoia to keep their businesses going.

            We need to be smart but not fearful of moving spent fuel around. It can be done safely, has been done safely and will continue to be done safely.

          4. Jet fuel will flash and then burn out very quickly unless a constant supply is available. A constant supply can be shut off, capped or otherwise stopped so that is not a viable scenario to consider.

            @Bill Rodgers

            We don’t know what is the classified high release scenario detailed in the Sandia Labs report, only that jet fuel was excluded from their model. We also don’t know what highlighted low probability scenarios with “severe consequences” were not included in NRC sponsored studies. We only know such details are classified, and not part of the reviewable record.

            Are they assuming infinite resources and infinite time?

            No … they seem to be assuming something a little different (among many concerns): “Given the willingness of terrorists in recent years to sacrifice their lives as part of an attack, the national and international communities have begun to rethink just how long spent fuel really might be self-protecting. As spent fuel ages and becomes less self-protecting, additional security precautions may be required” (GAO report, p. 46).

            It’s important to highlight not only national but international concerns here. Presumably, energy technologies don’t have exclusive borders, and we’re interested in a nuclear option that is global in scope and meets global energy and environmental challenges (not just in US where indefinite, highly secure, and institutionally stable requirements are “assumed” to be present for the long haul). Are other countries, with less stable governments and institutional requirements over the next 100 to 500 years supposed to just opt out of nuclear and waste storage, or ship their long lived waste elsewhere to be managed, maintained, and actively warehoused (at what long term cost, security risk, and for who)?

            It’s an odd form of “American exceptionalism” that suggests we can be less diligent and less proactive with our safety and regulatory requirements (and remain more diligent and proactive on behalf of others simply looking to do the same)? I don’t see a workable long term alternative here, just more stagnation and inertia (and a great deal more of the same apoplectic and languishing status quo).

            1. @EL

              Quit moving the objective. We don’t need to solve all of the world’s challenges before recognizing that it would be a good thing for the US to slow its greenhouse gas emissions and its fossil fuel consumption. If that means fuel that would have been burned here is thus freed up for export to countries that need it more for their economic development, why is that a bad thing?

              For a supposedly caring liberal who claims to have dedicated his professional life to alleviating the suffering of disadvantaged, indigenous communities, you sure have some odd priorities.

          5. Quit moving the objective. We don’t need to solve all of the world’s challenges before recognizing …

            @Rod Adams

            Perhaps solving a few of them is a good place start … and not adding to the challenge by failing to meet basic benchmarks (that will eventually be met one way or another), and kicking the can down the road for someone else to solve.

          6. @EL

            You are moving the goal posts again.

            Sandia is not the only organization who has done testing. They have a big playground to destructively test many things. However they are up against political machinations of the US Congress and White House to receive funding for nuclear power testing and R&D. There have been many tests and many reports Sandia has created about spent fuel which are publically available. Your focus on one report indicates your agenda on this issue.

            Additionally, Sandia is not the only testing organization. There are many design and testing groups have performed analysis, performed testing etc. So again by focusing on one test at one lab your agenda is showing.

            If the GAO report you refer to excludes reprocessing because it is “too expensive” then it is taking the political not the technical line.

            Which gets back to the main point of you trying to move the goal posts.

            Energy Solutions

            All companies that are privately owned and have been designing, testing and fabricating spent fuel storage and transportation systems.

            For over 15 years

            NRC and IAEA have been reviewing these designs

            For over 15 years

            So now you shift to political arguments against spent fuel storage and transportation. Not technical issues

            USC and other anti-nuclear groups have flipped flopped on their positions about how to store nuclear fuel. First is was keep it in the pool. Why because they thought it would be prohibitively expensive and dangerous in their goal to eliminate nuclear power. They were wrong.

            Then they flipped to dry storage. Why. Because they thought those of us who have participated in the design of spent fuel storage system couldn’t; do it due to costs and it was dangerous. Again to meet their agenda to eliminate nuclear power. They were wrong.

            Then they flipped back to keep spent fuel in the pools because of terrorists.

            Then Fukushima happened and now they are back to supporting dry fuel storage with a twist. They want the fuel out before 5 years is up. Again thinking that the designers are up against an insurmountable hurdle. Again they are wrong.

            So your talking points are straight from their anti-nuclear playbook.

            You keep talking politics. I keep taking technical solutions which doesn’t meet with your view of the world. Not my problem.

            If you can’t accept there are technical solutions to safely moving fuel then it is you who needs to change his perspective of the world not the nuclear industry as a whole that needs to bend to anti-nuclear PR campaigns.

          7. EL is what I call a deconstructionist. EL asserts many theoretical problems which have never proven to be a a problem anywhere in the world in any nuclear technology regime in any country.

            EL for instance likes the non-quantifiable caveat quotes such as “we can’t predict the motivations of terrorists” etc. to make a point that… well what is your point EL? We cannot fully protect society from terrorists? Yes, that’s pretty obvious. More likely EL tries to make the point that because we don’t know the motivations of terrorists, nuclear energy is uniquely dangerous and must be criticised for such badness.

            And then what, EL? Continue to use fossil fuels which kill millions in air pollution while we operate under a fig leaf of pretty solar panel pictures in the newspapers and eco-loon websites? All this to avoid theoretical risks which have low probability of killing a few dozen people even if they do occur?

            EL has no solutions. He has criticism which cannot be quantified and argued against.

          8. “If you can’t accept there are technical solutions to safely moving fuel then it is you who needs to change his perspective of the world not the nuclear industry as a whole that needs to bend to anti-nuclear PR campaigns.”

            Beautifully well said, Bill. The whole post, not just the conclusion that I quoted.

          9. The Sandia Labs study (which many cite, and is not fully reviewable as a public document) did not consider jet fuel in its model. The risks don’t appear to be so “ho hum” (seeing as none of us has access to these documents)?

            Well, let’s see just how seriously to take your objection.  Transport casks (much smaller than the container plus overpack used for stationary storage) have been subjected to impact tests and fire tests and drop tests and so forth.  They would not have leaked.  But you’re asking people to believe that there is some dire threat from jet fuel applied to these massive concrete assemblies with their welded stainless inner containers… somehow.  Precisely how, when it’s unlikely that the inner container would be even scorched let alone breached, you leave unspecified.

            I’d ask “are you serious?” but I’m absolutely certain you’re not.  You talk just like a paid propagandist, pushing a line regardless of its factual truth or lack thereof; when one is debunked, you move seamlessly to another without a pause (like you’re working from a list).  You post nebulous notions of threat, hoping that people’s imaginations will make them fearful.

            That’s despicable.

  11. There is a huge error in trying to be partisan about nuclear. I see a liberal democrat in the white house AND I see 4 brand new nukes being built without hindrance. I saw 20 years of republican presidents (Reagan, Bush Sr., and Jr) in the white house and no real movement toward nuclear. I think none of this is relevant, as well.

    No president since JFK (a democrat I might add) has ever *visioned* an energy future and fought for it. None. Zip. They are all “reactive” to the politics of the street and the Capitol.

    If we have to rely on a single person in the white house to make this happen, then we’ve lost, and lost badly. It’s about building *consensus* by the American people on the one hand, and break down the partisan divide in Congress so that neither side can claim to have the only answer for energy. Rod is correct when he stays Obama is for “all of the above” which means maintaining things as they are. And, in terms of *action* Bush was no different. Not at all. So we need to create positive energy *expectations* and let the donkeys and elephants fight over who are the best supporters of atomic power. Otherwise no one will invest or be able to build nuclear if it’s left up to who is in office at any one particular time.

    1. Obama’s “all of the above” is meant to be a short-term, as a transition to an
      alternative energy economy. Obama has done more to promote alternative energy
      than all of his predecessors combined. And, indeed, alternative energy
      continues to increase as a percentage of the energy mix under his stewardship.

      1. @Mary

        There is no possibility that wind and solar can provide reliable power. They can only provide assistance when the weather is right. Otherwise, the capital invested in the collectors and the transmission lines from those collectors is idle and wasted.

        That’s why the “renewable” energy industry lobbyists go into overdrive ever time their special tax status, direct cash subsidies and quotas are threatened with repeal or expiration.

        If you include nuclear as an alternative energy, there is a technical path to a near-zero carbon electricity grid and a substantial reduction in CO2 output in other parts of our energy supply system.

    2. It never ceases to amaze me that there are still those that believe that high political office can be achieved by anyone of decent moral character. How truly screwed up do things have to get before the incompetence and corruption that is the hallmark of Washington becomes so blatant that even the most naive among us cannot fail to take note.

      This two party dog and pony show is a charade, designed to create the division among the masses that effectively serves to render us impotent to reach a common ground, and to hold our politicians accountable to serve that common ground. Special interests have become the recipients of “representation”, and the lack of morality required to represent some of these special interests is a requisite requirement for the attainment of high office.

      When you can out bribe the fossil fuel folks, and shovel the required amounts of money into the pockets of these harlots in DC, you will be able to advance nuclear energy. But not before you achieve that goal. Science and altruism doesn’t cut it. Graft and corruption are the gears that run our government, and you will need to oil them if you want to be part of the machine.

      1. And our right-wing Supremes have made things even worse
        with their Citizen’s United decision that allows billionaires and
        corporations to buy off even more politicians.

        1. Mary,

          You are saying that if I want to produce a film critical of a politician and show that film within some days of the election that should be forbidden by law. There are still campaign finance limits on how much can be given to a politician.


          So, what you are saying is that if I make a film together with my friends about Senator Reid. In the film we point out that he manipulated the law to make sure that Yuca Mountain is never going to be used after spending 14 Billion dollars to carefully study it. The Federal Election Commission should jail us for 5 years for having the temerity to join with several others to produce and promote that film.

          Ah yes, I can see that this is a grave danger to our society and the Supreme Court was totally wrong to arrive at the conclusion the the laws were Unconstitutional. (sarcasm alert).

          1. David….

            You are putting lipstick on a pig with your disingenuous Fox News version of the Citizens United decision.

            But you knew that. Limbaugh would be proud of you.

          2. POA,

            I see, so my version is a fox news version. Not a grass roots version. What about my senario is wrong? If I want to make a 30 second video add and purchase time in a major US market just a few days before an election can I do that with about 10 friends of mine who all earn average US wages? Or do we go to jail because

            1. We decided to form a corporation to consolidate the work
            2. We decide not to form a corporation and go to jail for non-disclosure

            Ah, I get to go to jail or I get to go to Jail or I stay quiet.

            Your “Fox News” dismissal shows how little you care about real political speech.

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

            Let’s see, It looks to me like Citizen’s United dealt with “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” – because as a corporation I have now become a part of the press as well as having the RIGHT to speak freely about issues and people without going to jail for that. Finally it dealt with “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

            Please show me how this was a wrong decision and quite trying to shut me up. Those who love to repress speech have an agenda of tyranny. Very much like the agenda of Senator Reid who wants to bend all power in pursuit of his agenda regardless of law or morals or the truth about Yuca mountain and radiation.

          3. David. Horseshit.

            The problem with your film is that you can make any disingenuous claim about a candidate, spend millions on media aired lies, and not have to disclose your identity. Don’ t you think the public should have the right to know who is slamming who? Special interests should be able to aid campaigns through buying media exposure. But anonymously? No friggin’ way.

            And it ain’t a coincidence that it is the Republicans that consistently fight against disclosure legislation. What moneybag sleazy pieces of crap are you folks so afraid of us finding out about??

          4. BTW David…….

            Should you choose to respond, I’d be interested in reading your opinion as to exactly what constructive purpose is served by allowing anonymous donors to sink millions of dollars into political attack ads. Why the anonymity? We don’t need to know who dumps millions into the effort to get a politician into a position of power? How do we judge the integrity of claims made in these attack ads? If a donor sinks millions into getting someone elected, are you so ignorantly naive that you think that donor doesn’t expect a return on his investment? We don’t need to know who this politician is going to “owe” after they have bought his or her seat in our government?

            Maybe you can ask Rush or Sean. They’ll tell ya what to say, how to say it, and what to believe, by golly. You can’t go wrong!

          5. POA,

            Disclosure of names for all contributions? You have just moved from talking about jail time for those who want to make a film, to needing – in your opinion – the names of those who contribute to the film.

            1. The truth of any media is not secured by knowing who produced it. I have watched the National Media for many years and I know that stories are shaped and manipulated by the press. We know exactly who is doing this but they still print and produce lies. So, the disclosure you are asking for will not get the result you claim to want.

            2. Your claim that there is always a quid pro quo comes from your personal jaundice. I don’t know a government that is not corrupt, but some are much less than others. What I do know is that campaign finance restrictions help incumbents. Regulations normally help existing businesses maintain market share.

            3. You seem to think that if I make a truthful film about Harry Reid that I have nothing to fear from revealing my name in the process. That Senator Reid will simply smile and thank me for the film. The IRS, Department of Justice or others will not have any motivation to find trumped up charges against me. Bad young men in their 20’s will not be paid to find my home and rough me up. My business will not be targeted for retaliation by going to all my customers and threatening them and by going to my advertisers and threatening them.

            So, in conclusion, your desire to know my name will not stop lies from being printed or filmed. But your desire to know my name means I face a strong possible threat of retaliation when, as the popular phrase goes, I “speak truth to power.”

            By the way, though a US citizen, I live in a part of the world where many political opponents simply disappear when they protest. Here is one example.

            I will not give one from where I am currently living since at this time any protest of any type could land me in Jail. Yes, there is a benefit to not having to reveal your name.

          6. David, thanks for the chuckle.

            Millions if dollars in campaign advertising, “speaking truth to power”. Anonymously.

            You gotta be kidding me.

            Yeah, thats what they do. Uh huh.

            I thought you had reached the pinnacle of absurdity with your “free speech” blather. Guess I was wrong. Pretty amazing.

            Oh what the hell, David. I guess if they’re gonna to sell the farm, they gotta have salesmen. I wouldn’t hold your breath, though, when you’re waiting for your commission.

            1. @poa

              As an outside observer to your discussion with David, I’d say you were letting your preconceptions take over your brain.

              David is not parroting any lines from cable or even US network talking heads. He has indicated that he lives in a developing country with an entrenched political class that uses intimidation and restrictions on speech to maintain its grip on power.

              He has made a thoughtfull case for looking at Citizens United using a lens that is different from the one provided by left-leaning media and incumbent politicians.

              I learned something, even though I am concerned about vast investments into ambitious, often greedy politicians.

          7. Actually, Rod, David offers, almost verbatim, the arguments I have heard from far right pundits justifying and rationalizing the Citizens United decision. I found nothing new in his excusal of a decision that has seriously damaged our electoral process. Rather than reining in the cost of attaining political office, the cost keeps being driven far beyond the reach of anyone that does not have the “powers” providing the finances to launch a successful campaign. The idea that this decision opened the door to “speaking truth to power” it ludicrous to the extreme. In fact, it did the opposite. It handed a megaphone to “power”, and unplugged the people from the media amplifier. If you truly rue the effect that huge money has on our political machine, I fail to see how David’s flowery account of a disastrously damaging Supreme Court decision managed to become implanted in your do called “liberal” leanings.

            1. @poa

              And your arguments sound suspiciously like the ones that I hear from the incumbent establishment – including people like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the subject of today’s post – pointing to a decision that is less than five years old as the root of all evil in American politics.

              There was big money in politics whose real source could not be determined LONG before the Citizens United case was decided. Non-profit foundations and anonymous individuals were already allowed to produce work exactly as politically focused as Hilary: The Movie. The only expansion was to open the umbrella to for-profit corporations, unions and other associations.

              As the operator of a tiny, for-profit LLC with a mission that might someday include direct participation in electioneering, the decision protects my free speech rights even if the sources I tap for the resources are for-profit corporations whose money has been earned more recently than the resources at Rockefeller, Pew, or Walton Family.

            1. @poa

              The relevancy is in disproving your insulting assumption that he is parroting far right pundits. Exactly how is he supposed to have been led into this role when he is not exposed to the hypnotic effects of regular exposure?

          8. POA,

            Your basic assumption that there is too much money in politics is one that I disagree with. I think there is too little money in politics and that most of the money currently in politics is controlled by the same fellows or ladies who want to keep the status quo.

            Yes, I “parrot” “right wing talking heads” I have “added nothing new.” That is because freedom must be free to be valid and this is a very very old principal. If I have a threat of jail for speaking – I am not free. The point of mentioning the countries I live in is that I have to be very very careful about what I say about the governments. Even private conversations can end a person in jail for simply disagreeing with even simple policy decisions, much less major criticism of a well know politician. I have been watching my country move in these directions and I deeply fear for the freedoms we hold. So, yes, I don’t bring anything new, only the old arguments. By the way, I quoted the case itself and the US constitution not any other person. Who have you quoted? What principal are you upholding? That we need to remove powerful people? That we need to remove money from politics? If you believe that a law against spending stops actual spending I would say you are naive. The most corrupt people are not stopped by laws but the most honest are. Only honest people follow the law. It is those honest people that need to be free of the fear of jail so they can participate without fear.

            Will having their names insure the truth of what a person says? Where I live, having the name of a protestor insures jail time or worse – an “accident” in the night. In the Philippines many journalists are killed each year and many of the candidates who run against incumbents are killed outright on the street. I remember the news article that talked about how this had been improved and only 90 candidates lost their lives one year….

            Citizen’s United allowed people with smaller wallets to join the conversation. It was the right decision. I can speak and not fear retaliation.

            How about showing the actual harm – quoting some actual event that has been terrible because of this decision? We are 4 years down the road, surely something has happened. Demonstrate your concern rather than tossing fear around as though I should be afraid because you say I should.

    3. There hasn’t a liberal in the white house in 40 years. Don’t buy the propaganda you’re being fed that Obama is liberal. His polices are almost identical to Bush’s and no one considers him liberal.

      1. “Don’t buy the propaganda you’re being fed that Obama is liberal. His polices are almost identical to Bush’s and no one considers him liberal”

        Never mind that. Don’t mess with the script, man.

  12. For a time, the US Congress appeared to be content making Yucca Mountain the permanent depository. Then Harry Reid and the Nevada delegation informed the congressional leaders of other states that the waste was to be transported through their states. Once these congressmen were informed of this, and the dangers involved, they were no longer so enthused about making Yucca Mountain the respiratory. In the future, advocates of permanent depository will face the same political dilemma. Those opposed are going to print up copies of the transportation routes and show them to the representatives and people of the states along the route, which will create a big opposition in Congress.

    1. I’ve seen movies of the cask thing that they use to transport spent nuclear fuel. I think I saw them hit it with a missile and it withstood the attack. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if they hauled that stuff down the road in front of my house. I think the danger might be a traffic jam from the protesters following the stuff around.

      1. You might not lose any sleep over this spent fuel being transported, but a lot of people do. They have heard all the promises before about nuclear power being perfectly safe. And they have also witnessed 3-Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

        1. @Mary

          While nearly everyone can remember the names of the three major nuclear accidents in the past 35 years — only one of which produced any fatalities — almost no one can name the last three fossil fuel accidents that killed more than 10 people at one time.

          I’ll admit that I can’t either, but I’m nearly certain that I can find at least three meeting that criteria that have happened in 2014.

          Nuclear is not perfectly safe, but its proven safety record is better than any competitive power source.

          1. And many would argue that the way to make nuclear
            as safe as possible is to continue to store the waste on site,
            rather than ship it around.

            1. I have no issues with minimizing transportation. It is a waste of resources unless the destination is a recycling facility that will turn “waste” into valuable materials.

              Why do you think only nuclear has to be “as safe as possible?” Why isn’t much safer than all other alternatives good enough? You realize, I’m sure, that resources are not infinite. Money spent to make nuclear power plants — a well-understood and carefully-implemented technology that has not caused a death from exposure to the nuclear-unique hazard of radiation in the US in the past 60 years – safer might be better spent on many other activities.

          2. You know, if you restrict the incidents to those with 10 or more fatalities, the only one I can recall easily is Lac Megantic.  The San Bruno pipeline explosion only claimed 8.

          3. And Deepwater Horizon? We can all recall tmi from 35 years back that killed or or injured no one and whose containment worked pretty-much (almost entirely?) as designed. But Deepwater/Macondo? Not even five years past? I think I’ll rest Rod’s case.

          4. Here are a few examples from 2014 of fossil fuel disasters that happened, and were reported, but were not embedded in our common memory by purposeful actions to make sure we remember them.

            Coal mine collapse, explosion and fire – Soma, Turkey. 13 May 2014. At least 300 fatalities. Blaze continued for two full days. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soma_mine_disaster

            Coal mine explosion – Xinjiang, China. 5 July 2014. At least 17 fatalities. http://www.clb.org.hk/en/content/17-dead-xinjiang-coal-mine-explosion

            Natural gas pipeline explosion – Andhra Pradesh, India. 27 June 2014. At least 15 fatalities. http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/06/27/uk-india-blast-idINKBN0F207Q20140627

            Natural gas pipeline explosion – Kaohsiung, Taiwan. 5 Aug 2014. At least 20 fatalities and more than 250 reported injuries. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-01/taiwan-gas-explosion-kills-22-in-southern-city-of-kaohsiung-1-.html

          5. The San Juanico natural gas plant explosion in November of 1984 devastated the nearby town of San Juan Ixhuatepec in Mexico. The disaster killed between 600-800 people and injured from 6,000 to 7,000. The total fatalities is uncertain because the radiant heat basically incinerated victims to ashes. So there you have a fossil fuels disaster that overshadows Chornobil by at least a factor of 20 or so in terms of immediate fatalities, with those who died being killed in a most horrible manner.

          6. You mean like the carefully crafted marketing messages of the oil&gas industry – “Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel.” And “We have about 100 years worth of resources right here in North America.”

          7. See Wikipedia’s List of pipeline accidents for really cheerless way to start your day:

            From 1994 through 2013, the United States had 745 serious incidents with gas distribution, causing 278 fatalities and 1059 injuries, with $110,658,083 in property damage.

            From 1994 through 2013, there were an additional 110 serious incidents with gas transmission, resulting in 41 fatalities, 195 injuries, and $448,900,333 in property damage.

            A recent Wall Street Journal review found that there were 1,400 pipeline spills and accidents in the U.S. 2010-2013. According to the Journal review, four in every five pipeline accidents are discovered by local residents, not the companies that own the pipelines.

            …and that’s the good news. The rest of the world? You don’t wanna go there.

          8. Rod….the disasters you cite can be considered third world disasters. It does not lessen their import, but it does lend understanding as to why they occurred. Lax safety laws, terrible working condition, very little regulatory constraints, low wages…etc.

            However, TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima….all proclaimed as “safe” by agencies of governments exercising modern regulatory oversight that you claim is too burdensome. You cannot see the dichotomy?

            The trouble is, the long term ramifications of these accidents, both nuclear and fossil, is contested by the very interests that seek to gain by minimizing the actual truth behind the damage. So who do we believe? TEPCO in regards to Fukushima? BP in regards to the gulf? What “can’t” happen keeps happening. And following these events huge sums of money are expended, lies are told, telling us it ain’t no big deal, we’ll have it cleaned up in a jiffy. Meanwhile, each opposing side points fingers and screams “LIAR!” at each other.

            Add the politician’s bought and paid for two cents…….and the whole thing stinks to high heaven. Yeah, it’d be nice to find a side to trust, but God gave us a brain, and I think we’re ‘sposed to use it.

            1. @poa

              I’m sure there are people who would dispute your characterization of Taiwan as “third world” but would agree that Ukraine under the Soviet Union was not exactly “first world.”

              Fossil fuels have regulatory agencies that also characterize their systems (pipelines, mines, etc.) as safe.

              I grossly limited my characterization by limiting it to fossil fuel accidents with more than 10 fatalities in 2014, which means just 9 months worth of experience. That eliminated such recent first world events as Deepwater Horizon, San Bruno Lac Megantic, and Upper Big Branch.

              My contention has never been that nuclear energy is perfect. It is that it is superior to its competitors on almost any measure of effectiveness, including its sustained safety record.

              It’s also my contention that if you don’t trust big money combined with politics, you should review your history to see just how much more money is associated with fossil fuels and how frequently fossil fuel interests have used their financial clout to influence politicians that are all too ready to sell their souls.

          9. So? Windmills, solar panels, hydroelectric dams, biomass, geothermal, coal, oil, and natural gas are all used to produce electricity.

            Electricity is dangerous. Any concentrated energy source CAN kill. Nuclear energy could be extremely hazardous, but it has not been very accident prone because there is no reason to take gross shortcuts just in order to make a buck.

          10. “Electricity also kills…”

            I’m not so sure about that. I mean, holistically. How many lives are saved by having electricity? Having electricity in hospitals, in education, being able to use electricity to call the police, the fire men. … well just about anything.

            The most dangerous situation is to be without electricity. I have personally been in such a situation and it was really dangerous. There was no way to call for help if something bad happened, I was at the mercy of fate in a dangerous jungle environment. I was lucky and nothing bad happened.

            Electricity is a massive live saver. It is a major advancement in our species, I would say the massive enabler to take our species to the next level. Without electricity we are stuck in the middle ages. We can’t do anything.

        2. “They have heard all the promises before about nuclear power being perfectly safe.”

          People think they hear too much but they research and investigate too little. Anyone can go to the nuclear regulator website or just Google a PRA from a nuclear reactor. You will then find things like large release frequency (LRF) which determines risk to the public. You can then compare this to PRA done for dry cask storage or transport. Convince yourself. Learn about the technology of dry cask nuclear fuel storage. Learn about the design requirements these things have to withstand, fires, flood, missile strike, jet fighter strike, earthquake, gravity drop on concrete.

          Nuclear energy is safer than any other form of energy. Even when things go wrong nobody dies. Nobody died from radiation from TMI. Nobody died from radiation from Fukushima. Many have died by forceful evacuation and many more have died due to loss of their job, income etc. and having to live in a tent. Politicians evicting people from their homes are very dangerous. Easily thousands of times more dangerous than nuclear reactors with damaged reactor cores.

          According to the world health organisation air pollution kills about 7 million people a year. This air pollution comes from so called renewable energy (biomass) and fossil fuels. None of it is from nuclear reactors.

  13. @JohnGalt

    A deep repository may be the law but it’s a bad idea. Everyone is against it: from anti-nukes, to pro-nukes and NIMBYs. Better just change the law. Use DU and SNF to power a PRISM and MSR nuclear programme which will give the USA zero-carbon electricity for hundreds of years to come. Dispose of high-level waste by putting it in onsite bunkers. Change NRC regulations to mandate a safe level of radiation. Now we need only dispose of any low-level waste emitting above the safe level threshold (which will, hopefully, be none of it).

  14. Hate to go on-topic, but I’ve a couple questions:

    1. Do the United States allow used fuel reprocessing? In particular would we allow a commercial private enterprise IFR (e.g. PRISM) that does reprocessing as tightly integrated part of plant operations?

    2. How about Trans Atomic Power’s waste annihilating molten salt reactor?

    3. What legislation needs amending, and how?

    1. “2. How about Trans Atomic Power’s waste annihilating molten salt reactor?”

      I believe this design is being oversold in its abilities. No biomodal reactor with Zr and light hydrogen can isobreed on SEU or LEU. It is impossible by physics, even if you ignore fission products and cladding.

      There’s a good chance TAP will work, but not as an iso breeding waste destroyer. Not even close.

      1. I think that would depend on TAP’s flexibility of design. While you may be right about the suitability of Zr hydride as an iso-breeder moderator, its actually being flogged specifically for waste annihilation, on the assumption that’s actually what Congress wants done [citation needed]. Get the business off the ground and let the public see first hand just how cool are MSR. Swapping out the Zr-Hx for graphite and wrapping the shebang in thorium can wait. Save some of the fun for the kids.

        1. Waste annihilation needs isobreeding. Otherwise you’re generating a volume of waste that is just as big as you started with and the radioactivity is similar. 1000 kg of TRU of 100 kg TRU doesn’t matter much, its still TRU waste. To burn it down needs either isobreeding or ultra high burnup. Neither appears possible with TAP (it is low fissile fuel feed so low burnup).

  15. As a professional industrial safety and risk analyst, what amazes me about the discussion of long lived wastes, is the lack of risk in old spent fuel.

    More than 99.9999999% of the risk to the public from the nuclear fuel cycle occurs with fresh fuel. There is no point worrying about long term fuel management. The stuff just doesn’t produce enough self heat to spread itself into the environment.

    Another odd thing about the discussion is the lack of understanding in gamma versus alpha radiation risk. A 500 year old spent fuel assembly with zero shielding is safe to stand next to as long as you want. It isn’t safe to eat, because of the alpha activity. But that’s silly. most of the cleaning agents and paints I have stored in my house aren’t safe to eat. Doesn’t mean they are a terrible risk for thousands of generations in the future. Just don’t eat metal tubes with strange ceramic pellets in it.

    1. Radioactive decay is one of the few certainties in life. Though practically it is hard to see how it will be safer than today. Safer than the current track record of zero casualties from spent fuel is pretty hard.

  16. By far the most likely way for the enemies of the US to acquire nuclear weapons is for them to take over the government of Pakistan.

    Storage casks are not at all likely to be a target.

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