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Nuclear wastes in dry cask storage – still very dangerous

 waste-containers1A spent fuel accident at San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump could cost a trillion dollars. Deal with it. Salem News Ace Hoffman  July 13th, 2013  “…….There are a total of about 75 sites in America with operating or closed nuclear reactors. Almost all have spent fuel stored on site. Most are under various airline routes. All are vulnerable to terrorism. San Onofre has repeatedly been cited as a likely terrorist target by elected officials because of the devastating damage an attack could do to the economy and lives of so many millions of people. Have the lessons of 9-11 truly been forgotten just 12 years later?

The time to solve the nuclear waste problem is now, not later. Once the waste has “cooled” enough to remove it from the pools, it is still incredibly hot (as much as 400 degrees Fahrenheit at the fuel rod’s surfaces) and stays hot for many years. The heat is produced mainly by the decay of fission products, emitting deadly gamma rays (hence the lead, steel, and cement shielding) as well as alpha and beta particles.

The spent nuclear fuel is in danger of fire by several methods, including, of all things, water intrusion, which can lead to zirconium cladding degradation along with splitting the water molecules into separate hydrogen and oxygen atoms. This chemical reaction created an explosive atmosphere three times at Fukushima, and is known to have happened in at least one dry cask here in the sStates — but it was discovered before an explosion occurred. Will we always be so lucky?

As the fission products decay, the spent fuel cools and becomes “safer.” However, it doesn’t become “safe” ever. Many of the most dangerous isotopes, such as cesium and strontium, have half-lives in the 30 year range, and are at their peak now. Thus, the importance of taking care of the “spent fuel problem” is highest now — much higher than, say, 30 years from now when about half the cesium and strontium will have decayed. So waiting makes no sense. The waste’s most virulent components are at their peak quantities right now, and an accident now would be the most devastating for the planet’s collective DNA — DNA which has already taken a terrible hit from weapons testing and use, from Chernobyl, from Fukushima, from 1000 other accidents and purposeful spills, and from continuing leaks at Hanford and other nuclear sites.

There is really only one logical conclusion, of course: It’s time to shutdown the reactors everywhere. In China, Russia, France, England, India, South Korea, and everywhere else, not just in southern California. Currently nuclear waste is stored in at least four locations in California. Those four sites need to be consolidated into one highly protected site, with earthen berms between EACH cask, and a “no-fly” zone and other considerations.

But how will consolidation be accomplished when communities are bullied into supporting flimsy, inadequate dry cask storage wherever the waste was produced, regardless of the danger?

Activists in Humboldt County and around Rancho Seco have accepted dry cask storage for years. Why shouldn’t southern California?

The answer is, because southern Californians understand, post-Fukushima, what the real dangers of spent fuel are……”.



July 15, 2013 - Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes

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