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China’s growing nuclear waste problem

waste levels are growing rapidly. The government-backed China Nuclear Energy Association said that by the end of 2020, the nation’s nuclear plants will have to get rid of more than 1,000 tonnes of spent fuel each year……

The Tianwan facility as well as the Daya Bay nuclear plant complex in the southern city of Shenzhen have nearly run out of room for on-site waste storage, said Mr Chai Guohan, chief engineer at the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre.

tianwan-npp-2013

text-relevantSpent-fuel issues cloud China’s nuclear expansion Questions raised over country’s ability to handle radioactive waste as storage space runs out, Today,  BEIJING , 2 Oct 16— A Chinese nuclear power plant construction programme has been on a fast track ever since the government’s four-year moratorium on building such facilities was lifted this year.

Now, five years after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster led to the moratorium, China is fully engaged in an expansion that is scheduled to add 24 new reactor units to the nation’s existing 32.

 Nuclear plants now meet 3 per cent of the nation’s demand for electricity. That number could hit 10 per cent by 2030, according to Mr Li Ganjie, director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration.

But nuclear plant construction projects have stirred controversy in China, particularly due to questions surrounding incomplete plans for handling a dangerous by-product of nuclear energy — radioactive waste.

In August, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest a government plan to build a nuclear waste recycling facility in the Jiangsu province city of Lianyungang. The protest prompted the local authorities to suspend work on a feasibility study that would have moved the project forward.

Indeed, public scepticism about nuclear power in China has persisted ever since an earthquake-induced tsunami destroyed the Fukushima plant.

Some analysts have linked that scepticism to a lack of transparency among government agencies that oversee nuclear power plants and the energy companies that build them.

In the wake of the Lianyungang protests, for example, neither the central nor local government authorities have said when work on the feasibility study might resume, nor whether officials might consider building the plant elsewhere.

The proposed Lianyungang recycling plant would be built by state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation and French energy company Areva under an agreement they signed in 2013…….

China plans to open a permanent storage facility for high-level radioactive waste, perhaps in the remote west, by 2020. Waste reprocessing and recycling, which have the potential for squeezing energy out of spent fuel, are also part of the equation.

Radioactive waste generated by reactors at existing nuclear plants across the country is currently being stored at each plant site.

Moreover, medium and low-level wastes are currently stored at sites in Gansu province and Guangdong province. Plans call for opening five additional facilities for this kind of waste by 2020……

Medium and low-level waste can be safely stored at near-ground-level storage facilities, according to Mr Zhao Chengkun, a former director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration.

But waste levels are growing rapidly. The government-backed China Nuclear Energy Association said that by the end of 2020, the nation’s nuclear plants will have to get rid of more than 1,000 tonnes of spent fuel each year……

The controversial plan for a Lianyungang recycling centre was drafted due to rising demand for a new place to put waste from the Tianwan nuclear complex near the city. The complex includes two operating reactors and two that are now under construction.

The Tianwan facility as well as the Daya Bay nuclear plant complex in the southern city of Shenzhen have nearly run out of room for on-site waste storage, said Mr Chai Guohan, chief engineer at the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre.

The proposed Lianyungang facility, with a capacity for treating 800 tonnes of spent fuel every year, was originally slated to be up and running before 2030.

China has for years been looking at reprocessing spent fuel using a system commonly used in other countries called “plutonium uranium redox extraction” (Purex). The Lianyungang plant would use this system.

Dr Ma Yuefeng, a researcher from the China Institute for Radiation Protection, said that although Purex can reduce the amount of nuclear waste on hand, public health can be threatened by chemical pollutants that are by-products of the process……..http://www.todayonline.com/chinaindia/china/spent-fuel-issues-cloud-chinas-nuclear-expansion

October 3, 2016 - Posted by | China, wastes

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