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Media avoid the truth about nuclear wastes

the hidden message:

scientists and engineers are still bewildered by a mountain of nuclear waste 80-years high.  Nobody wants it in their neighborhood.  There’s no place to put it

Limp logic of safe nuclear waste storage, 30 Aug 21Enriching uranium requires fossil fuels that leave coal ash and/or fracking waste, both of which degrade the quality of soil, water and air.  There are tons of containers, gloves, booties, and hazmat suits, etc. that must be discarded as radioactive waste in order to fabricate, use, transport and store the spent fuel generated in service to tens of thousands of electricty-users.

Author, Jan Boudart, Nuclear Energy Information Service1.

The August 19, 2021 Mirage News article “ORNL receives spent fuel canister to support long-term storage studies” has prompted us2 to question the superficiality of ORNL’s analogy to the volume of spent nuclear fuel.  

Characterizing spent fuel on less than half of 1000th part of its yearly volume is to ignore, not only the whole story of mining, transporting, milling, transporting, processing, transporting, refueling reactor vessels, storing spent fuel, then more transporting.  Spent fuel volume is but a trivial part of how the nuclear fuel cycle impacts humans, animals, plants and the geological earth.

And acres of concrete, whose manufacture is a strong producer of greenhouse gasses, are required for temporary entombment.  Fossil fuels are used in trucks and trains to haul radioactive fuel, both new and spent, on water and land.  And there are hospital gowns, syringes, and multiple wastes, along with the energy to light, heat and build sophisticated diagnostic and treatment systems to deal with the cancer-stricken victims of the whole fuel cycle of which spent fuel is a small, but important, part.

Relevant metrics easily expose the disconnect between reality and the unsubstantiated and spurious analogy in the article.  For example, (i) the hundreds of thousands of tons which will further degrade our fragile roads, rail and bridges in a nuclear-waste transport scheme3, (ii) the hundreds of billions which have been spent worldwide over 70 years trying to find the ever-vanishing ‘solution’ to nuclear waste, and (iii) the hundreds of thousands of years (a million according to the US National Academies) in which spent fuel will remain hazardous and toxic.

Also, a perennial chortle among anti-nuclear activists is the fact that no insurance company in its right mind would consider taking on the risk posed by a nuclear power plant or its waste.  In case of an accident, taxpayers will foot most of the bill, per The Price-Anderson Act of 19574.  If spent fuel is such a no-big-deal to manage, let the nuclear industry assume full responsibility for paying for and insuring it.

Another egregious statement from the ORNL spokesperson: “The used fuel… can be retrieved at any time for reprocessing and reuse.”  BUT, “Incredibly, not a single dry storage cask, once loaded, has ever been unloaded in the U.S.”5  And no one has volunteered to risk their life taking spent nuclear fuel out of a canister.  To do so in relative safety would require a “hot cell”6, where workers could be protected from “spent” fuel’s deadly radiation — much more fearsome than when it was “new”.

At present, in the U.S. 95 nuclear reactors are functioning, each producing about 2000 Tons of spent nuclear fuel per year.  The inventory of High-Level Nuclear Waste, “Spent” fuel, has exceeded 90,000 tons7.  Transporting this monstrous load would be dangerous and very expensive8.  

Further, the ORNL speaker implied that spent fuel can be “inertly stored”, saying, “The nuclear energy industry is unique among power generation options in that its used fuel is inertly stored in sealed canisters…”.  But it is well-known that the spent fuel, itself, is not inert.  It is, in fact, thousands of times more radioactive than the new fuel whose fission produced the heat to run the reactor.  It costs about 4 million USD for each cask9 and another half million USD to load each one with fuel.  “The concrete pad for casks to sit on costs another 1 million USD.  A rough estimated cost to move all of the fuel in the United States that has cooled in pools for at least five years could cost 7 billion USD.”10  You tell me why private power companies are required to spend $4,500,000+ per cask to “inertly store” this dangerous material.

Later the article discusses the foils against criticality that are being tried at ORNL.  No concern for “critically” would be necessary if the SNF were “inertly stored” as previously claimed.

The fact of the article in question appearing at this stage— when we are 8 decades (counting from 1942) into the Atomic Age — this immediate and present fact — emphasizes the hidden message: scientists and engineers are still bewildered by a mountain of nuclear waste 80-years high.  Nobody wants it in their neighborhood.  There’s no place to put it…………..

  • [10] “Dry Cask Storage” Hoi Ng March 19, 2014 Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University.

August 30, 2021 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, media, wastes

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