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Congressmen Pushing To Reopen Yucca Mountain

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the for-all-your-one-stop-mutant-making-needs dept.

Earth 212

Bob the Super Hamste writes "CNN is reporting that a group of congressmen backed by the nuclear industry are pushing to reopen the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. The site has sat closed and uncompleted since the Obama administration scrapped the project. The article goes into the pros and cons of the Yucca Mountain site for storage and also brings up some interesting political issues involved in continuing development. It's also worth noting that there's been a fee on electric bills since 1983 for the building of the site."

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212 comments

About time (5, Insightful)

wbean (222522) | more than 2 years ago | (#36725778)

About time. We are fussing about whether this will be safe after 10,000 years and meanwhile we store the waste in overcrowded pools spread around the country and continue to burn coal, which is an environmental disaster all by itself, never mind what it does to the climate.

Re:About time (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36725838)

And, as a bonus, if they start reprocessing the waste (and overturn Carter's executive order which outlawed the process), there will be enough storage in Yucca Mountain to store all the waste that will ever be made, until it's cooled, since most of the waste, by volume and mass, is just more fuel, and what IS really waste is hot enough to burn itself out on the scale of human life spans...

Re:About time (2)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726556)

It looks like the Ford and Carter bans on nuclear waste reprocessing were overturned by Reagan. The Wikipedia page on nuclear reprocessing [wikipedia.org] has an overview of the current situation, and a link to a more in-depth summary of US reprocessing policy here (pdf) [fas.org].

Based on a quick read, it looks like one of the big hold-ups is that while the US isn't banning fuel reprocessing, it isn't subsidising it either; but that's just from a quick read and I encourage you to do your own analysis.

Further, reading over the Wikipedia page, it looks like there have been some substantial improvements in the reprocessing chemistry that go a long way to mitigating the proliferation risks that were a concern in the 1970's.

Re:About time (1)

socz (1057222) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727150)

You hit the nail on its head: "it isn't subsidising it either"

From my conversations with others and general internet reading, other countries have been reprocessing their 'spent fuel/waste' and using it over again. In some discussions the reasons for lack of space (for storage) has come up as a primary reason of why they do it. And why they don't do it here in the U.S.A. is because of cost - it's much cheaper to just set it and "forget it" than process it which costs money. It's such a shame that it has been like this in the U.S.A.

Re:About time (3, Informative)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727252)

I believe regardless of the science and actual process for reprocessing it is simply an equivalence in many politician's minds of reprocessing == proliferation. I believe the truth is that you get plutonium out as a "waste product" from straight fuel rod reprocessing but with some new formulations of fuel rods you may end up putting the plutonium back in.

My understanding of fuel reprocessing today is that it is somewhere around 97% of a fuel rod is available for using in a new fuel rod. In other words, only 3% of the mass of a fuel rod is truely "waste" and ends up needing to be buried somewhere for a long time.

Of course it is idiotic to be storing fuel rods which require cooling and isolation when they could be reprocessed with 97% of them being reused. But the nuclear politics are filled with idiocy.

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727870)

"Further, reading over the Wikipedia page, it looks like there have been some substantial improvements in the reprocessing chemistry that go a long way to mitigating the proliferation risks that were a concern in the 1970's."

The proliferation risks are also mitigated by something that I did not realize until recently: that like uranium, you have to have the right mix of plutonium isotopes for an effective nuclear weapon. I always thought uranium required difficult isotopic enrichment whereas plutonium you could derive from any waste reactor fuel chemically, making it a lot more dangerous from a proliferation standpoint (chemical processing is easy compared to isotopic separation). But it turns out the fuel has to have a brief duty cycle in the reactor to yield the right mix. It has to be low in 240Pu and high in 239Pu, otherwise the bomb will "fizzle" (predetonation [wikipedia.org]). That means you can only put the fuel in the reactor for a relatively short time before having to take it out and process it for bomb use, otherwise the 240Pu builds up over time. For regular, commercially-used reactor fuel and reactor designs, it wouldn't work without seriously impeding the uptime for the reactor and even if you used a reactor design that allows fuel replacement while the reactor operates (e.g., CANDU reactors) it would be very wasteful and expensive for fuel. It's like you're barely using it before swapping it out. At typical fuel burnup rates before removal, there would usually be more than enough 240Pu to make its use in weapons unlikely if not impossible without isotopic separation. You probably need a dedicated reactor like the ones the military used, and it would be fairly obvious if you were trying to cheat by running more fuel quickly through a regular reactor than normal. So the proliferation issues of reprocessing seem overblown to me unless there's some subtlety I'm missing. Regardless, if you monitor the isotopic composition of the plutonium coming in or going out of the reprocessing system it's going to be easy to tell if someone is trying to use it for weapons, and you could always intentionally poison the mix (swap in some plutonium with more 240Pu) to keep the batch below levels of concern. While you could isotopically separate the plutonium, good luck with that -- it would be more difficult and dangerous than separating natural uranium (even less mass difference than U-235 versus U-238), and anyone capable of doing that would take the easier uranium route.

Incidentally, too much 240Pu is thought to be one of the reasons North Korea's initial nuclear test fizzled. Some more background on the effect of 240Pu on weapons here [wikipedia.org] and here [wikipedia.org].

Re:About time (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#36728450)

If it's not subsidized, then it's only a matter of time before cost of storing (un-reprocessed) waste meets the raw cost of fuel.

My understanding is that reprocessing generates plutonium, and that probably had/has something to do with a lack of reprocessing.

Get the cost of fossil fuels to be more efficient (i.e. incorporate negative externalities into the price of oil), and all this immediately becomes more interesting for everyone.

Re:About time (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36725966)

lol you are making the mistake of thinking the argument is about common sense. Its about politics.

Re:About time (2, Insightful)

atriusofbricia (686672) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726910)

lol you are making the mistake of thinking the argument is about common sense. Its about politics.

It's far worse than that. It's about irrational fear on one hand and unknowledgeable hardcore anti-nuclear power fanatics on the other. How many times have we heard the anti-nuclear power crowd go on and on about there's no where to store the waste, and then when you bring up Yucca they switch to "well no you have to transport it!". What they really want to say is "Ban all nuclear power! Power everything with rainbow farts from Unicorns!"

Re:About time (1, Interesting)

rmstar (114746) | more than 2 years ago | (#36728290)

It's far worse than that. It's about irrational fear on one hand and unknowledgeable hardcore anti-nuclear power fanatics on the other.

Fair and balanced, heh?

It is between irresponsible nuclear energy fanbois on one hand and political and financial/technical reality on the other hand. Nuclear is not going anywhere, and it's time for the nuclear energy advocates to stop pretending. Things don't get anymore true because you repeat them over and over. When you weight the probability of something going wrong with the consequences it comes out that nuclear is not for most places on this planet.

It is simply not true that coal (for example) is worse than nuclear. It might be so on a an average day, but if shit hits the fan, nuclear can recover all the distance in a single day, and then make some the next day. And given the corruption and incompetence of the nuclear industry, we'll see another blow to its image within a decade. I'd bet it will be a Thorium reactor by the chinese, who are going to fuck up as surely as the sun gets up tomorrow.

Go ahead, claim it's impossible, so you are on the record when it does.

"Ban all nuclear power! Power everything with rainbow farts from Unicorns!"

How's that called. Nuclear strawman? Hahaha.

Re:About time (2, Informative)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726490)

Shhhh! You'll wake the tree huggers who only want to use biodegradable elf farts powering windmills in Denmark! Just imagine if a nuclear plant melts down! The entire world's salt supply will kill us all! [nikochan.net].

As I've always said, solar and wind are great, where its sunny and windy. We need to stop the fantasy science and at LEAST use today's available science to solve today's problems. You wanna develop space solar panels and beam down power? Fine, we'll close the nuclear plants AFTER you get it working.

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726704)

We could do space solar today too. We already have everything we need to do it. Just one more thing we lack the political will to actually make happen I guess...

Re:About time (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726928)

You think people will be less scared of microwaves after so many people played Sim City 2000?

Re:About time (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727964)

We could do space solar today too. We already have everything we need to do it. Just one more thing we lack the political will to actually make happen I guess...

We also lack large-scale heavy lift capacity. It's currently fantastically expensive to put things in space, and almost all of that cost is due to moving mass from the bottom of a gravity well to (much closer to) the top. It's simply much cheaper to just put solar cells on the ground (assuming you're somewhere with plenty of insolation and relatively cheap land) even despite the reduction in efficiency due to the atmosphere. Plus it's easier to upgrade and easier to maintain.

You have Sarah Palin's mind for science (-1, Redundant)

leftie (667677) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726932)

Religious extremists should not be allowed near discussions of science policy.

Re:You have Sarah Palin's mind for science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726994)

Quote something he said that suggests he is a "religious extremist". You will not and cannot do this.

Re:About time (0)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726532)

You seem to think that nuclear reactor byproducts were ever going to be stored there. This was always a jobs product. Tax electricity to pay to dig a big hole in the desert. It was never any more than that. You realize if the storage was allowed to open then more reactors would be built and electricity would get cheaper. That would make our lives better and help the economy. That is not what the politicians want. They want us miserable so they can gather power.

Re:About time (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726688)

You seem to think that nuclear reactor byproducts were ever going to be stored there. This was always a jobs product.

Let us fantasize. For many years, people were saying the exact same thing about WIPP [wikipedia.org]. Trucks loaded with TRU-PAKs head down to Carlsbad all the time.

Re:About time (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727060)

Different situation that proves my point. WIPP stores DOD waste. This comes from weapons that enrich their power so it's good.

It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved in. (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#36725876)

It's not perfect, but dry cask storage in Yucca Mountain is way better than rods in spent fuel pools in power plants.

There's been worry about shipping spent fuel rods around, but the casks are very tough (they will survive being hit by a locomotive), and the worst cases are far, far less dangerous than a failed spent fuel pool at a power plant, as we now know.

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726372)

Note that a good portion of the worry about shipping the spent fuel around is that the rails themselves actually need to be upgraded to support the weight of how the nuclear cargo needs to be shipped. The standard lines can't handle it.

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726420)

US rail needs upgraded anyway. Sound like an opportunity to improve our infrastructure and provide jobs, a great thing to do during a recession.

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726524)

Nothing wrong with our freight rail system - it's one of the best in the world.

Our passenger rail system is a whole other story, but good passenger rail infrastructure and good freight rail infrastructure are completely independent.

Yes, in our country our passenger infrastructure is heavily dependent on our freight infrastructure, which is WHY our passenger infrastructure is so bad.

Side Benefit (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727022)

Yes, in our country our passenger infrastructure is heavily dependent on our freight infrastructure, which is WHY our passenger infrastructure is so bad.

WIth the average weight of Americans increasing, it could be very handy that passenger rail makes use of the freight lines.

Are you sure? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726984)

The main lines of the class 1 railroads can carry 35 ton axle loads. 100 ton cargos are transported routinely. Extra axles can be added to a railcar to increase its weight capacity. How heavy are these things, that the main line raillines are considered not strong enough to carry them?

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (1)

KenSeymour (81018) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727880)

How does the fuel get to the plant today? What makes the waste heavier than the fuel?

IIRC the fuel gets there by truck. If so, they can take the dry casks out by truck if there is somewhere for the trucks to go.

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36728110)

Can you provide a citation for that? If they cut up, packaged, and transported the entire contents of the melted-down Three Mile Island reactor core across the country from Pennsylvania to Idaho [inl.gov], then it can't be that much of an obstacle, especially if the stuff is conveniently packaged in fuel bundles instead of fused into a solid mass that has to be cut up.

The point is, it's already been done.

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (2, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726656)

This is yet another case of anti-nukers actually making the world a more dangerous and costly place. If the anti-nukers would just shut the fuck up and let intelligent people actually move forward, things would be way better all the way around. As is, everything is more dangerous and far, far, far more expensive than would otherwise be required if anti-nukers would simply shut the fuck up.

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (2)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726776)

Well the US is one of the few countries in the world that doesn't reprocess it's nuclear waste. In fact you guys ship your plutonium to Canada so we can make nuclear fuel for reactors. Seriously? Time to kick environmentalists in the face when they fuck everything up for everyone else based on fear mongering.

Texas (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727358)

Not at all. Texas was a more likely site but it had political pull to get out of consideration. Now Nevada has some pull. Perhaps we can let the science choose the site now. More geologically stable is better so lets look at Texas again.

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (1)

Stone2065 (717387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726954)

All fine, well, and good for those that this ISN'T going into their backyard... as a Nevada resident, I'm not real fucking happy over it. I'm hoping we can block it AGAIN, and they can figure out something ELSE to do with the shit. It's not like this is the only place on (or off) the planet we can put it...

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727040)

you know - the not in my back yard argument annoys the shit out of me.. everything is everyone's problem.. it has to end up some place.. if you don't like it in your back yard move.. but let it happen.. personally i don't mind.. if i don't like what is going on in the area around me i move..

Re:It needs to be reopened, and spent fuel moved i (1)

Cramer (69040) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727184)

Bullshit. There's nowhere on Earth to put this stuff that isn't going to be in someone's backyard. Of all the land in the US -- and that's really all of the Earth we get to use, Yucca mountain is one of a very few safe places to store nuclear waste. If you wanted to bitch about it, you should've done so 40 years ago during the site selection process. (that, btw, is back when your politicians sold you out. they knew no one would care until the site was near opening.)

This has been bashed over and over... the answer is reprocessing and breader reactors. But the US power industry won't do either of them. Reprocessing is expensive. And building a completely new reactor just isn't going to happen -- cost, politics, NIMBY...

[Note: "safe" is debatable. 10,000 years is a very long time.]

The American public has been fooled.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36725974)

Yucca mountain was nothing more than a covert government black project all along. The whole 'nuclear storage' thing was a smokescreen for the real intended purposes for the site, which is mainly a link to huge underground bases in Nevada. There is a reason for everything the military does.

Good luck to these Senators, but they are so in the dark about the reality of the situation that they will never get this passed.

Re:The American public has been fooled.. (2)

G-forze (1169271) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726078)

Citation needed

Re:The American public has been fooled.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726254)

That's OK, G-forze. I think in the case of our esteemed AC, MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT is needed. The post flunks the most basic sarcasm test.

Re:The American public has been fooled.. (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726516)

We are coming for you and those like you. Those we don't keep around to be ridiculed will disappear.

You don't know when, you don't know where.

Sleep well.

Radiation is bad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726008)

Everything radioactive is bad once handled by man. Unless it's made of marble and made into kitchen countertops, or statues around the capital building. Then it's too little to worry about.

Wait, this means Obama actually cut spending? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726062)

Wait, this means that at some point in time, Obama actually cut spending on something?!

(Reads article)

Oh, nope. He just threw out billions of dollars that we paid for (via the tax mentioned in the summary) while increasing spending by forcing us to look for a new solution and continue wasting money on inadequate, more expensive, and above all more dangerous storage.

That's the hope and change I'm used to. I was worried there for a moment.

Re:Wait, this means Obama actually cut spending? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726168)

Hey, turn off Fox News and open the window up to let the crack fumes out.

Re:Wait, this means Obama actually cut spending? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726950)

Fact: Obama has increased deficit spending more in his ongoing term than all other presidents combined.

Re:Wait, this means Obama actually cut spending? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727028)

Fact: Obama has increased deficit spending more in his ongoing term than all other presidents combined.

Fact: 2+2 = 5.

Fact: War is peace.

Fact: Rush Limbaugh was never addicted to any drugs.

Fact: We have always been at war with Oceania.

GOD BLESS FOX NEWS AND ALL IT STANDS FOR!

Re:Wait, this means Obama actually cut spending? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727048)

You know, I'm really getting sick and tired of this constant meme that the only people upset with Obama's presidency are Republicans, and therefor Fox News watchers, and therefor either racist or stupid or flat-out insane.

Simple fact: Obama is the worst president the US has seen for at least three decades. He's increased the deficit, he destroyed the economy, the job market is in the toilet, and he's already managed to start at least three wars (that we know about).

The simple fact is that if you're not upset with Obama, and by extension the Democrats, you're either stupid, or racist, or insane.

Shutting down Yucca Mountain is just another on the long list of things that make Obama one of the worst presidents the US has ever had. And with a year and a half left, he's working hard on adding that to his list of "accomplishments."

Re:Wait, this means Obama actually cut spending? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36728530)

Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Thorium Reactors (5, Interesting)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726110)

You can burn the transuranics in a Thorium reactor and extract residual energy from them. Then the hazardous waste will be negligible by comparison. Google LFTR.

Re:Thorium Reactors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726252)

You can burn the transuranics in a Thorium reactor and extract residual energy from them. Then the hazardous waste will be negligible by comparison. Google LFTR.

you could if not for genius president carter's non nuclear proliferation act, if we can get that overturned an amended, then as you said, even the waste products can be used

Re:Thorium Reactors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726422)

Could somebody please tell me how the *!&# burning the waste products up is a problem for nuclear proliferation? If you're consuming the fuel, shouldn't that make it less useful?

Of course, I think we should recycle nuclear fuel regardless, but this point has always annoyed me.

Re:Thorium Reactors (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726542)

Because the same reactor can (and does) produce plutonium as an intermediary fuel. Some of those reactors can be designed to allow the plutonium to be harvested.

Re:Thorium Reactors (1)

Cramer (69040) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727254)

Hince the term "breader reactor". And any country that even draws one on the back of a napkin gets invaded by UN inspectors -- and often the US military.

Re:Thorium Reactors (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727364)

So? All it would take is for UN inspectors to come in randomly during the design, build, and operational phases to make sure that doesn't happen.

Re:Thorium Reactors (2)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727402)

Uranium based reactors do create Plutonium. But in a Thorium based reactor for all practical purposes you do not. The reason why Uranium was preferred over Thorium for energy production is only BECAUSE of nuclear weapons. You cannot make practical weapons using a Thorium reactor. The chemical separation of actinides from spent fuel could also be used in a Thorium to create more energy from it. Elaborate and expensive ionic separation on not required. The basic idea a fusion is seductive, but so far it has only been a government make work project. Thorium reactors have actually been built and are functioning. Of course the most advanced to of a Thorium reactor would be e liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR). The only reason these have not been built in mass quantities is engineering details. Fusion reactors are still pie-in-the-sky.

Re:Thorium Reactors (2)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726570)

Burning waste products up requires reprocessing. Carter banned reprocessing unilaterally due to proliferation concerns and a false assumption that reprocessing = PUREX = proliferation - but there are fuel cycles that use reprocessing other than PUREX.

Re:Thorium Reactors (2)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726602)

Note: Thorium fuel cycle has nothing to do with burning our existing waste. Yes, it does happen to support a low-waste low-proliferation-risk cycle, but there are actually low-proliferation-risk cycles such as that used by the IFR that work with our existing waste regardless of thorium use as fuel.

Re:Thorium Reactors (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726598)

If you use uranium as you fuel [and most plants due] a by-product is plutonium. When reprocessing the fuel one can extract the plutonium easily.

Building a bomb out of uranium is hard. Nuclear fuel is “low enriched”. It needs to be purified to “highly enriched”. This is hard to do. Building a bomb out of plutonium, on the other hand, is hard.

Any country to reprocess fuel, could say with a straight face, that they had no intention of building a bomb – but verifying that would be next to impossible. So to close that door to nuclear proliferation the advance countries had to give up reprocessing. So what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Re:Thorium Reactors (5, Informative)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726752)

Fun fact: the ban on reprocessing was lifted by Reagan. The government just isn't subsiziding it.

coming and going (1)

John Da' Baddest (1686670) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726374)

Coal & gas plants can survive rapid political winds of yes-we-can / no-it's-bad, but this nuclear stuff takes a longer term commitment. You can't change your mind on a dime. Yucca mountain was scoped, zoned, and marketed as million-year storage, no wonder there's opposition. By me too. But as a "temporary" staging area until reprocessing and burning up, it may well be our best option. Too bad there's such a garbage-man mentality around. Recycle your own wastes? Communism! Islam! Illegal immigrants! Drug-dealing! Or whatever the tea-party crowd wants to launder it as. The Greens are likewise a bit irresponsible in this regard.

Re:coming and going (1)

atriusofbricia (686672) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726968)

Coal & gas plants can survive rapid political winds of yes-we-can / no-it's-bad, but this nuclear stuff takes a longer term commitment. You can't change your mind on a dime.

Yucca mountain was scoped, zoned, and marketed as million-year storage, no wonder there's opposition. By me too. But as a "temporary" staging area until reprocessing and burning up, it may well be our best option.

Too bad there's such a garbage-man mentality around. Recycle your own wastes? Communism! Islam! Illegal immigrants! Drug-dealing! Or whatever the tea-party crowd wants to launder it as. The Greens are likewise a bit irresponsible in this regard.

Wait, what? What does "the tea-party crowd" have to do with this? Unless I'm terribly mistaken about the only people opposed to reprocessing fuel are either the greenies, because they hate nukes no matter what, or anti-nuclear weapons people because they don't know that it can be done without the output equaling bombs. Where are tea party people in that mix of people? Hell, for that matter who could seriously argue against cost effective reuse of materials?

Tea-party is about thrift (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727058)

Recycle your own wastes? Communism! Islam! Illegal immigrants! Drug-dealing! Or whatever the tea-party crowd wants to launder it as.

Tea party people have no beef at all with recycling - as conservatives, it's just another means to being thrifty and not wasting things.

It's along the same lines as saying the government should not waste money on projects they are not needed, we should not waste nuclear fuel that is perfectly good.

The Greens are MORE than a "bit" irresponsible, they are the ones fully responsible for the halt of Yucca Mountain and more nuclear power plants.

question about fusion energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726396)

Suppose somehow that humans eventually arrive at functional fusion with all the free and essentially unlimited energy it promises.

Is there a technology that leverage this energy to convert dirty fission waste into harmless blocks of ${something_mostly_harmless}?

More generally (and more to the point), does there exist some magic fairy dust, however impractical now, that can mitigate the mess caused by nuclear energy?

Re:question about fusion energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726514)

A whole mess of wiki links for you to read, if you so choose: Reprocessing - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reprocessing [wikipedia.org] CANDU - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candu [wikipedia.org] Advanced CANDU - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_CANDU_Reactor [wikipedia.org] Pebble Bed Reactor - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor [wikipedia.org] IFR - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor [wikipedia.org] TWR - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor [wikipedia.org] Glassification - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste#Vitrification [wikipedia.org]

Re:question about fusion energy (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726522)

Fusion Engery: No

Fairy Dust: Yes.
      There are ways to reduce the amount of high level waste, but as people mentioned they fall afoul of the nuclear proliferation treaties.
      There have been "table top" demonstrations of converting low level waste into safe stuff. Basically, you isolate the radioactive atoms and bombard them with neutrons until they fall apart into something safer. You don’t need nanotechnology to make this work – but close.

Re:question about fusion energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727074)

Can't we use the same reactions that chickens use to convert magnesium to calcium to form egg shells to convert deadly radioactive waste into tasty aerosol cheeze ?!!!

Re:question about fusion energy (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726596)

The answer is yes. There is a way to process all that unspent fuel and reduce the waste to materials that can be safely stored until inert. It is called fission in a breeder reactor. We just have to repeal non-proliferation and build the reactors and we can get rid of all that waste while producing electricity at the same time.

Free housing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726398)

Let's put Congress in Yucca Mtn., too! I hear the view from the top is spectacular.

Oblig Neil Young (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726424)

Oh to live on
Yucca Mountain
With the fuel rods
And the nuclear waste

THE US LACKS LONG TERM PLANNING (5, Interesting)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726548)

This is the problem with the US IMO. They lack any long term planning. The political party in power at any given time is only obsessed and focused with getting themselves reelected in four years. Thus, planning is limited to FOUR YEARS. How can one run the last remaining superpower on a four year shedule? It takes 10 years to build a nuclear power plant. How long does it take to build other MEGA infrastructure projects? There are so many unemployed out there, the US should be doing like China and upgrading its ancient infrastructure and laying the groundwork for a high-tech, energy efficient 21st century. I would suggest to raise taxes, but so far that has only made banksters on wallstreet wealthier with zero economic impact. Where is the leadership?

Re:THE US LACKS LONG TERM PLANNING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36726842)

I agree. the presidency has become nothing but a job to these people. All they care about is getting hired. Once there its more of a "well shit what could I do while working here... meh.. whatever.. I got a job!"

Meanwhile bridges fall apart.. water mains rot and burst... roads crumble and fall apart...

"it was a foolish man who built his house upon the sand"

Re:THE US LACKS LONG TERM PLANNING (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727036)

Thus, planning is limited to FOUR YEARS. How can one run the last remaining superpower on a four year shedule?

The Chinese are rapidly overtaking with their five year plans. I therefore recommend that the main US election cycle become every 6 years with legislative elections every 3.

what is wrong with America's infrastructure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727112)

Yes, much of America's infrastructure is old, but it still works. Our freight railroads are some of the best in the world. The US interstate highway is still quite extensive and functional.

If you are referring to the lack of high speed rail, or the lack of an electric grid to transport much wind power hundreds of miles, then yes, the United States lacks that. In the United States, only ~0.3 percent of all freight ton miles are transported by air. It is only in big, dense regions (like the Northeastern corridor, Japan, and parts of China), high speed rail is economical. If reduction in nonrenewable energy consumption is desired, then insulation of houses and buildings, thermal energy stores and more efficient heat and cooling systems should be pursued first.

Re:THE US LACKS LONG TERM PLANNING (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727146)

The political party in power at any given time is only obsessed and focused with getting themselves reelected in four years. Thus, planning is limited to FOUR YEARS. How can one run the last remaining superpower on a four year shedule? It takes 10 years to build a nuclear power plant. How long does it take to build other MEGA infrastructure projects?

By extension, when one party does plan ahead and start building Nuclear/Solar/Foo plants, after four years, the new party in power comes along to halt construction because it's not their baby.

It really is a pretty safe facility (4, Informative)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726608)

I remember working on some of the Yucca Mountain studies years ago and there really isn't a better place you could store nuclear waste. It's very stable geologically, and the storage medium leeching was practically non-existent, even if you stored the blocks under water.

Most of the objections are NIMBY related and don't represent any realistic threat.

I can promise you where nuclear waste is being stored now, where ever that is, is a lot less safe than it would be at Yucca Mountain.

Re:It really is a pretty safe facility (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726722)

I can promise you where nuclear waste is being stored now, where ever that is, is a lot less safe than it would be at Yucca Mountain.

But that's exactly why the anti-nuclear nutters oppose it; they love nuclear accidents because it helps them campaign to end nuclear power... the last things they want are safe reactors and safe waste disposal.

Re:It really is a pretty safe facility (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726992)

But that's exactly why the anti-nuclear nutters oppose it; they love nuclear accidents because it helps them campaign to end nuclear power... the last things they want are safe reactors and safe waste disposal.

Good point! Protestors lack the proper incentives or, at least, impetus to inform their own opinions.

There are NO safe reactors. NONE (0)

leftie (667677) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727030)

As Fukushima showed, "safe" nuclear power is myth and a lie.

Re:There are NO safe reactors. NONE (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727094)

I forget - remind me how many people Fukushima has killed so far?

Re:There are NO safe reactors. NONE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727724)

Especially compared to coal.

Re:There are NO safe reactors. NONE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727740)

I forget - remind me how many people Fukushima has killed so far?

In other news, cigarette smoking has been declared safe due to the negligible number of people who drop dead from lung cancer within 3 months of starting smoking.

What's the opposite of a NIMBY? Its the person who believes that problems he can't see from his back yard must not exist at all!

Re:There are NO safe reactors. NONE (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727754)

How many square miles have been evacuated to prevent illness and death? It's important to not leave that out. Japan doesn't have a lot of land to just abandon every time a reactor melts down.

Re:It really is a pretty safe facility (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727916)

I refer to these sort of tactics as bunghole politics. The idea is to stop up the system so that it has to be shut down. Named after the following joke:

The brain said "I do all the thinking so I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The eyes said "I see everything and let the rest of you know where we are, so I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The hands said: "Without me we wouldn't be able to pick anything up or move anything. So I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The stomach said: "I turn the food we eat into energy for the rest of you. Without me, we'd starve. So I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

The legs said: "Without me we wouldn't be able to move anywhere. I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

Then the rectum said: "I think I should be in charge."
All the rest of the parts said: YOU?!!
You don't do anything! You're not as important as we are, surely!
You can't be in charge!"

So the rectum stopped working...
After a few days, the legs were all wobbly,
the stomach was all queasy,
the hands were all shaky,
the eyes were all watery,
and the brain was all cloudy.

MORAL OF THE STORY

It only takes one asshole to shut down a job and an asshole is always in charge of everything.

Re:It really is a pretty safe facility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36728628)

Um, wouldn't the Brain call a doctor? Or at least go to the store and buy some laxatives?

That story makes no sense.

TEPCO's press release said same about Fukushima (1, Interesting)

leftie (667677) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727012)

Why should I believe this assurance of safety when the Nuclear Industry's track record shows they ALWAYS lie about safety and potential risks. ALWAYS.

Re:TEPCO's press release said same about Fukushima (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727154)

I don't think they really do. Any large scale power system carries risk, but if you try to be honest about the risks people go off the rails.

At least as far as the Yucca Mountain leeching data goes, I've seen that with my own eyes. And that was before the nuclear industry basically took over the regulatory authority. Yucca Mountain planning did take cataclysmic events into consideration, up to what would most likely be extinction events for the rest of globe anyway.

If something really bad happened, you'd be safer inside Yucca Mountain than outside. If it wasn't for the remote location, I'd live next to the facility without a second thought.

Re:It really is a pretty safe facility (1)

TopSpin (753) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727164)

Parent is correct. When you get past the junk science and put credible people under the spotlight Yucca Mountain is understood to be a safe long term solution. I watched the congressional testimony. The DOE had to have it beat out of them, because affirming the safety of Yucca kicks a leg out from under the Administration's policy. NRC scientists affirmed the same thing. There are no technical reasons why we should not open Yucca Mountain. The only actual reason for the shutdown that anyone could cite was the purely political view than Yucca is somehow "unworkable" for reasons known only to Chu.

Even worse was the NRC testimony. I don't believe this level of acrimony has existed at the NRC since TMI-2 melted down. NRC staff members publicly condemned the NRC Chairman Jaczko for politicizing the matter, withholding information from the board, manipulating scientific results [wsj.com] and manipulating the process. 'Science based' government my ass. Jaczko is still withholding [nytimes.com] the completed results of the NRC's scientific assessment of Yucca mountain safety.

From the the NYT story

The [NRC] inspector general’s report said that Mr. Jaczko’s decision to halt the Yucca review was based on politics, however, not on a consideration of the acceptability of the site for long-term storage.

Criticism of the Administration, the DOE and Jaczko by the House committee was nearly bipartisan. Basically we have anti-energy anti-nuke activists playing political games inside the NRC and the DOE, and everyone knows it.

This nonsense needs to stop. We really need to get this waste secured at Yucca before some earthquake/tsunami/tornado/flood/hurricane/meteor/terrorist/busted-water-pump causes widespread nuclear contamination.

Re:It really is a pretty safe facility (1)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 2 years ago | (#36728492)

The problem with "Yucca Mountain" has nothing to do with the facility - there are shortcomings, but I'm not aware of any place that would be better.

The problem is in the transport of the material to the facility - it affects more people, passes through densely populated areas, involves more congressional districts, and is easily the most dangerous part of the plan. The nation's nuclear failings and broken promises with the residents of the affected transit areas doesn't help either.

It's one thing to get past fears when speaking to a random group of people; it's another thing entirely to say it to a populace that's already suffered tens of thousands of deaths from Nuclear fallout, and are still expected to have tens of thousands more - and that's before anything involving waste from power plants is involved.

To many of the downwinders, it's not a "write your congressman" type of issue - it's an armed rebellion sort of problem.

Re:It really is a pretty safe facility (2)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 2 years ago | (#36728274)

Hate to tell you this, but the problem isn't really NIMBY - it's about several states being forced into something that's very much against their interests, and in a way that can potentially depopulate whole cities. The waste storage itself isn't the largest problem; the site can be secured relatively easily, and is safer than in the spent fuel pools at our nation's nuclear plants.

The problem lies outside Yucca Mountain: It's partly in safety, and mostly in politics.

The issue is that large, populous states, nearly all of which are east of the Mississippi river, are forcing Nevada to take the waste. With only three in the house and two senators to oppose, Nevada is largely powerless to stop it. The choice of Yucca mountain is in large part because the populous states with nuclear plants outvote Nevada by a factor approaching 100. Nevada doesn't even have a nuclear plant.

The issue is about state soverignty and why they should be involuntarily turned into a garbage dump for the East Coast. - Nevada (and the transit states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah) have no nuclear plants. Why should they pay nearly all of the penalties, and enjoy none of the benefits?

There has been more than enough suffering from broken nuclear energy promises in these states. For the residents affected, nuclear fallout isn't a distant fear, or a paranoid fantasy - it is a hard reality. It's not that it might happen, but that it already has, and it was forced upon them involuntarily.
- These states have already suffered the terrible cost (in lives) from radioactive fallout from the nuclear tests of the cold war, with tens of thousands dead, and many times more fighting thyroid cancer. (American film icons John Wayne and Susan Hayward died from cancer induced from the fallout of these tests).
    - The amount of radiation exposure in these states was over 5.5 exabecquerels - levels that dwarf that of Chernobyl and Fukushima combined.
- Why should these states (again) pay the penalty for nuclear energy - espescially when they receive no benefit from it?
- Why should these states believe yet another "promise" of safety from an industry (and government) that's proven highly effective at covering up problems and killing their family members?

We're talking about the same government who decided it was a good idea to store and dispose of the nation's (extensive) supply of nerve gas only a few miles away from a population center of two million, and the same industry that has been found covering up massive problems in order to extend the lives of reactors well beyond their design and safety limits.

The waste will travel through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada - exposing all of those states to the bulk of what is by far the most dangerous part of the whole project - transit of the waste. Estimates put 70% of the waste traveling through the Salt Lake Valley - population of ~2 million or so. It's not possible to secure the transit routes - there are just too many miles, too many people. The dry casks are tough, but they're not perfect. It's impossible to secure an entire city, or even the tracks along the route. I don't want to bring up "terrorism" here, but it doesn't even take a release of material - just an incident terrorists can claim they caused - to cause a lot of recrimination and panic.

Governers can and have called out the national guard (ie. state-controlled military) to prevent waste from entering the state. Tanks, helicopters, and a company of heavily armed, and highly motivated national guardsman is a pretty big deterrent to a mere shipping company. It inevitably ends up as a standoff where the Federal Government backs down, because frankly, how good does it look to the rest of the World if the US uses its military on one of its own states for not allowing themselves to be the waste dump of the most dangerous stuff on Earth - espescially when the waste comes from thousands of miles away?

Many consider it safest to put the waste in dry casks and store them on-site at locations that are already well-secured, rather than try to transport them thousands of miles across the country over routes that are impossible to secure.

Further, when new fast reactors are able to 'burn' the waste almost completely, if the waste is in Yucca Mountain, it will have to be shipped back across the country to the nuclear power plants. How does that make sense?

Why build one when you can build two at 3 times (2)

Marrow (195242) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726948)

the price? I suspect the biggest problem with Yucca is that we are ignoring the lost revenue of building another one. And the guys in charge would really love to be able to steer another bazillion dollars to their favorite contractors. Very generous contractors.

Re:Why build one when you can build two at 3 times (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#36728494)

huh? I see your line of reasoning, but it's more likely the very isolated nature of YMP hurt it. See, the hardest to kill government project is the one that 'resides' in as many representatives districts as possible.

Having said that, storing and managing nuclear waste is the very thing I want my government worrying/managing. Do you really think Walmart, GE, or BP has any incentive to properly manage nuclear waste? You've got to be kidding me!

Re:Why build one when you can build two at 3 times (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36728806)

No, the biggest problem with Yucca Mountain is Harry Reid. He doesn't want it opened, and he has a high enough position in congress to make sure it does not. Here is his statement [senate.gov], saying how proud he is that it was finally shut down.

Currently he is trying to find an alternative use for Yucca Mountain, in order to make it even harder to open again once he leaves office.

only 42++ comments? (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#36726958)

I'm saddened by the lack of interest this generated. I hope this is more a reflection of /. readers being too busy working to read and comment...

Why? Because nuclear waste and nuclear power are entirely under appreciated by the lay public.
-Nuclear power is one of the few, mature alternatives to fossil fuels.
-It's also pretty clean. (It'd be even more clean if the YMP was in full-swing).
-Somehow any nuclear accident gets blown completely out of proportion by the media (and therefore the public) while any oil related incident gets sweeped aside. Just how many opinions have changed after the Gulf oil drill incident? Not enough, I fear.

Yucca Mountain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727064)

In which Diz-Nee park is it, and why was it closed?

NIMBY (2)

waddgodd (34934) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727674)

It's going nowhere, Reid is still Majority Leader, it's in his state, and he's still against it. Lotta political smoke, not much fire.

Real bad idea (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#36727686)

Instead, we should be working on a new small power plants that can burn the 'waste', and then bury what remains. The fact is, that there is loads of energy left (hence the long half-life). So, if we burn it up via IFR or some other process, then we need just a little storage site. In addition, if the reactors are designed small, they can be manufactured and shipped to the site, loaded with the 'waste', and then simply burn it for the next 50-100 years.

Yucca Mountain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36727910)

I think that if YOUR state wants nuclear power, YOUR state stores the waste. Why should my home state be subject to the danger of radiation when YOUR state gets the power? Yucca Mountain is on a pretty major earthquake fault. It is not a good place for storage.

Nevada... (2)

batrick (1274632) | more than 2 years ago | (#36728464)

Everyone here is neglecting one of the #1 reasons this project was scrapped. Nevada is being dumped with the nuclear waste of all the other states. Nevada doesn't even have a nuclear power plant. United States against One.
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