×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Hanford Nuclear Waste Vitrification Plant "Too Dangerous"

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the series-of-explosive-tubes dept.

Science 292

Noryungi writes "Scientific American reports, in a chilling story, that the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste vitrification treatment plant is off to a bad start. Bad planning, multiple sources of radioactive waste, and leaking containment pools are just the beginning. It's never a good sign when that type of article includes the word 'spontaneous criticality,' if you follow my drift..." It seems the main problem is that the waste has settled in distinct layers, and has to be piped through corroded old tubes, leading to all sorts of exciting problems (e.g. enough plutonium aggregating to start a reaction).

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

292 comments

We glow (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43682979)

Yeah we glow at night around here...

Hopeless (3, Interesting)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | about a year ago | (#43682985)

At some point, it would have been cheaper to pay another country to take it away for reprocessing and vitrification, even after considering the obscene cost of safely transporting one barrel at a time to said foreign country and transporting the glass logs back for long term storage.

Re:Hopeless (3, Interesting)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about a year ago | (#43683003)

Only Canada would be viable for transport and reprocessing, and they don't have a high demand for nuclear fuel.

Re:Hopeless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683055)

As TFA says, they haven't even figured out a way to get the crap out of the old storage tanks safely...

Re:Hopeless (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#43683089)

The problem with that idea isn't cost, but accountability.

It's much harder to demonstrate that you got all the waste back if it left the facility than if it never left.

No politician wants the potential scandal of giving "the bad guys" materials to make a dirty bomb.

Haul it, keep it (2)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#43683101)

I don't know if you noticed but the US has been kind of bitchy lately about even our allies like Japan reprocessing their own reactor fuel locally for fear they might make weapons of it. I don't think anybody is going to get an export permit for Hanford's waste, which looks to have more uranium and plutonium in it (of the specific actinides) than is in the US arsenal. Even if they did - just pumping the tanks is almost certain death.

Re:Hopeless (3, Interesting)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about a year ago | (#43683209)

Give that crap to France, that country likes it - the pseudo state company, Areva, styles itself with mastering the whole nuclear fuel cycle, from cradle to grave.

The crap at hand is terrible though, what's in Hanford is leftover from WW2, when no concern was given. It's the world oldest nuclear waste, up to 70 years old.

Re:Hopeless (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | about a year ago | (#43683343)

At some point, it would have been cheaper to pay another country to take it away for reprocessing and vitrification, even after considering the obscene cost of safely transporting one barrel at a time to said foreign country and transporting the glass logs back for long term storage.

Is that fair though? Just because you can find another government that you can pay to take that shit off your hands does not mean the people in the country actually want the damn stuff.

Also, what happens if the country in question falls apart and someone decides they want to give it back to you later in the form of a dirty bomb? Even though you shipped that crap abroad you still have to keep an eye on the stuff to stop it falling into the wrong hands.

Re:Hopeless (1, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year ago | (#43683401)

Also, what happens if the country in question falls apart and someone decides they want to give it back to you later in the form of a dirty bomb?

I don't think there are many vitrification plants in Kreplakistan. It's far more likely the waste would be sent somewhere like France or Canada. Are you really that worried about the Canucks?

Re:Hopeless (5, Funny)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year ago | (#43683593)

Also, what happens if the country in question falls apart and someone decides they want to give it back to you later in the form of a dirty bomb?

I don't think there are many vitrification plants in Kreplakistan. It's far more likely the waste would be sent somewhere like France or Canada. Are you really that worried about the Canucks?

They sent us Celiene Dion and Justin Beiber. I think that counts as a hostile country.
And don't get me started on Canadian bacon...

Re:Hopeless (4, Insightful)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43683419)

They can't move it. It's not barrels, it's leaky underground tanks of the nastiest liquid ever created by man - big ones. They can't even figure out how to pump that caustic radioactive shit across the property it's already on, much less move it across a border or three.

Re:Hopeless (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43683493)

At some point, it would have been cheaper to pay another country to take it away for reprocessing and vitrification

At some point it becomes cheaper to get off your ass and build a breeder reactor to eat it all up.

Plus you get some more electricity...

journey into penny's pooper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683009)

is it like the commercial where they blindfold people and they have sex and then take off the blindfold and discover they had sex at a toxic waste dump?

i'd buy that for a dollar

Why is anyone surprised (5, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43683021)

This always happens. Lowest cost + government insurance = safety failure.

Greed (2, Insightful)

Endimiao (471532) | about a year ago | (#43683027)

And this is why people oppose nuclear power. It's harder to screw things up at such level with renewables. The simpsons greedy bastard running a nuke plant isn't a fiction. It's a damned archetype.

Re:Greed (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683063)

You are comparing nuclear power to experimenting and create nuclear weapons... Nuclear Power as it is today is very safe, reliable, and cheap if done correctly. People oppose nuclear power because they are scared because of their ignorance.

Re:Greed (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683093)

Sort of. Nuclear Power as it is today is very safe, reliable, and cheap if done correctly. But there is the problem. It is all too often not done correctly. And nuclear power plants have massively destructive consequences when they fail.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683195)

No, it's just very safe and reliable if done correctly. The number of hours of skilled people needed to build, maintain and operate new nuclear plants make them too expensive unless electricity prices go up a lot, which they won't. Night-time prices will slowly decline, but day-time prices will only go down faster from now on. Wholesale electricity prices in German already drop below 1 Euro cent / kWh regularly, and that's _after_ shutting down most nuclear plants.

Re:Greed (2, Insightful)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about a year ago | (#43683349)

That's because Germany dumps useless wind power on the grid when it's available. That doesn't do the baseload, which is nuke and coal. I wonder where's the drive to close down all coal power plants in the european territory.. Coal plants are fucking terrible and to conveniently use them is hypocrisy. Wind power sucks too, it mostly serves to damage power grids and to transfer subsidies from states to private companies that leech off it and paint themselves green while they cause additional greenhouse emissions from the back up gas plants and hidden costs of the irregularity (such as storage on expensive, wasteful and polluting batteries).

So, how can german "Greens" content themselves with the garbage they do? Close nuclear plants to use something worse intead. I hate those hypocrite self-styled ecologists or environmentalists who have no clue and give lessons.

Re:Greed (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683389)

That's because Germany dumps useless wind power on the grid when it's available. That doesn't do the baseload, which is nuke and coal. I wonder where's the drive to close down all coal power plants in the european territory.. Coal plants are fucking terrible and to conveniently use them is hypocrisy. Wind power sucks too, it mostly serves to damage power grids and to transfer subsidies from states to private companies that leech off it and paint themselves green while they cause additional greenhouse emissions from the back up gas plants and hidden costs of the irregularity (such as storage on expensive, wasteful and polluting batteries).

So, how can german "Greens" content themselves with the garbage they do? Close nuclear plants to use something worse intead. I hate those hypocrite self-styled ecologists or environmentalists who have no clue and give lessons.

Wow, what a load of bullshit are you spewing there. Care to back it up with some actual factual data?

Re:Greed (1)

amaurea (2900163) | about a year ago | (#43683693)

Germany trades electricity with Norway, which has huge hydropower magazines. These can also serve to even out the variability of wind and solar, though I'm not sure to which extent this is done, and how much can be offloaded this way.

Re:Greed (1)

Christian Smith (3497) | about a year ago | (#43683491)

No, it's just very safe and reliable if done correctly. The number of hours of skilled people needed to build, maintain and operate new nuclear plants make them too expensive unless electricity prices go up a lot, which they won't.

Night-time prices will slowly decline, but day-time prices will only go down faster from now on. Wholesale electricity prices in German already drop below 1 Euro cent / kWh regularly, and that's _after_ shutting down most nuclear plants.

Wow, you should work in the futures market.

Perhaps Germany just buy in some France's cheap nuclear surplus energy to keep the costs down?

Re:Greed (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43683219)

There is evidence that even when things were "done correctly" at Fukushima there were completely unexpected failure modes that no-one had predicted. That's the biggest challenge in engineering safety - handling things that are literally unpredictable.

Re:Greed (5, Insightful)

Christian Smith (3497) | about a year ago | (#43683309)

There is evidence that even when things were "done correctly" at Fukushima there were completely unexpected failure modes that no-one had predicted. That's the biggest challenge in engineering safety - handling things that are literally unpredictable.

Fukushima was a catalogue of retrospective bad design, cover-ups, mis-management, a huge freaking earthquake and largest tsunami in memory devastating huge swathes of Japanese countryside and killing many thousands of people.

And still no deaths can be attributed to the nuclear aspect of the regional disaster. Perhaps even the destructive hydrogen explosions could have been avoided (thus preventing much of the fallout) if it had been allowed to vent, but as I understand it, that wasn't allowed due to the fear of "radioactive gases" being vented.

Three Mile Island and Fukushima show us Nuclear is inherently safe, only Chernobyl has had anything like a devastating effect on anything other than economics scales. And the Chernobyl reactors were a picture of how not to do nuclear power.

Re:Greed (5, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43683439)

Actually TMI and Fukushima show us that a lack of attention to detail can come back and bite because both were easily preventable incidents that happened due to shortcuts being taken. If TMI didn't have the strongest containment vessel at the time (due to the risk of a crash from the nearby airport) you'd be writing about a tragedy instead of the wake up call that led to a lot of improvements and a lot of older reactors that couldn't be improved being shut down. It only looks "inherently safe" because the people responsible for nuclear safety do not think the way the above poster does - they don't just trust in God, they tie up their horse as well.

Re:Greed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683487)

It only looks "inherently safe" because the people responsible for nuclear safety do not think the way the above poster does - they don't just trust in God, they tie up their horse as well.

Have you SEEN a nuclear safety assessment? Volumes upon volumes of every imaginable scenario and failure mode (including things like the 'smart fire' that helpfully burns all of your redundant systems at once) for even the most basic system. It doesn't protect from unimaginable scenarios, or if nobody is given the budget to implement millennial-class tsunami defenses, but nuclear safety is probably the furthest industry on the planet from 'just trust in god'. I challenge you to find somewhere more rigorous, including NASA.

Re:Greed (1)

slim (1652) | about a year ago | (#43683547)

Perhaps I misunderstand what you mean by "millennial-class"...

But if it means "a tsunami of a kind that happens every 1000 years on average", then my naive feel for stats suggests that a facility expected to run for 50 years has a 1-in-20 chance of experiencing one. That seems like something they should be prepared for.

It seems to me that, given the impact of a failure, they should have been prepared for the 1-in-200 chance of experiencing the biggest tsunami in 10,000 years. I bet there are are other 1-in-200 chances that there are careful safeguards against.

Greed == "a lack of attention to detail" (2, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43683691)

Greed is usually the leading cause for "a lack of attention to detail", as in a desire for profits leading to taking shortcuts designed to save money. San Onofre [wikipedia.org] , just north of San Diego and Camp Pendleton had a shutdown in 2012 [wikipedia.org] specifically because non-approved and non-tested techniques and modifications to approved plans were used during construction,, most likely to save costs and increase profits so someone could go home with bigger paychecks and bigger bonuses.
.
Prior to 2012, plenty of other problems were found at San Onofre: "Problems at nuclear plant concern regulators" [utsandiego.com] in the San Diego Union Tribune covered a few of these which ended up "resulting in the simultaneous shutdown of two safety backup systems and placing operators on standby to shut down a nuclear reactor."
.
In Florida, you've got the hubris of Duke Energy trying to repair a cooling tower on its own using its own idiots rather than hiring people expertly capable of doing things just to save $10M$us (ten million usa dollars) resulting in the total shutdown of the Crystal River nuclear plant until at least 2014 at a total cost of repair projected to be $2.75B$us (2.75 Billion usa dollars):
http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/03/01/1894613/nuclear-fiasco-vexes-progress.html [newsobserver.com] : The problems experienced at Crystal River stem from a botched attempt to replace the plant's steam generator. The replacement required cutting a giant hole - measuring 23 feet by 27 feet - in the 42-inch-thick protective wall of the building that contains the nuclear reactor. To save money, Progress opted to manage the project on its own and awarded the contract to an engineering firm that had no experience in such repairs. The work resulted in three instances of "delamination," a term used to describe an internal separation of the building wall. Each delamination is the size of a basketball court, said Florida's Deputy Public Counsel, Charles Rehwinkel. "They were definitely three separate events, or discrete incidents," he said.

.

The blunder shows that a highly experienced nuclear operator with a sterling reputation in the industry is not immune from unforeseen miscues that raise questions about judgment and competence.

The sequence of mistakes has put Progress in a state of crisis management for more than two years. Company officials are dealing with persistent questions from Wall Street analysts while they negotiate data requests from the insurer, Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited, known as NEIL.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/crystal-river-nuclear-plant-had-flaw-in-its-safety-procedures-for-more/1276841 [tampabay.com] also shows that Crystal River had other serious problems, just like so many other plants that consistently skirt safety regulations and prescribed critical safety procedures:

4 generator failures hit US nuclear plants [al.com] in in AP article: Four generators that power emergency systems at nuclear plants have failed when needed since April, an unusual cluster that has attracted the attention of federal inspectors and could prompt the industry to re-examine its maintenance plans.

and those are just from a quick cursory review from a web search engine. People who look harder can find more. The common link in all of these are shortcuts taken to save money and to bypass conventional procedures which are required to be followed by the NRC.

Re:Greed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683569)

One word in your comment: "retrospective."

Today's "good engineering" is tomorrow's "retrospective bad design"...

Re:Greed (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about a year ago | (#43683511)

No, things were clearly not done correctly at Fukushima.

The risk of a hydrogen explosion was not appreciated when the plant was built, but was understood later, and in the USA plants of this type were retrofitted with a means of safely venting the hydrogen. This was not done in Japan.

There was a similar tsunami about 1000 years ago, yet the plant owners refused to consider the possibility of a recurrence. At another nuclear plant not far from Fukushima, the safety engineer in the 1970s insisted on building the sea wall a couple of metres higher. That extra height saved the plant.

There were passive cooling systems at Fukushima which did not operate, because although they could run without power, they could not be turned on without power.

Sea water could have been used sooner to cool the cores, but this was delayed as it would render the reactors unrepairable. (Of course, they ended up much more messily unrepairable anyway.)

All these are things which should have been anticipated and therefore could have been avoided.

(Sorry for the lack of references - this is from memory from my reading while the disaster was unfolding.)

Re:Greed (1)

fnj (64210) | about a year ago | (#43683573)

There was a similar tsunami about 1000 years ago, yet the plant owners refused to consider the possibility of a recurrence.

They gambled that they personally would statistically be very likely dead and buried before such an event occurred. It wasn't a bad gamble. It's just that the consequences of losing the gamble - for the world, not their own sad hides - were enormous.

Re:Greed (1)

amaurea (2900163) | about a year ago | (#43683731)

Were the consequences that large, actually? I thought the expected number of deaths from this was about one or something like that.

Re:Greed (5, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43683283)

. It is all too often not done correctly. And nuclear power plants have massively destructive consequences when they fail.

The only nuclear plant that failed with massively destructive consequences (and then far less than many mining disasters) was Chernobyl. It certainly wasn't done correctly: it had a huge positive void coefficient.

That simply does not exist any more. No one makes new reactors with a positive void coefficient.

Re:Greed (1, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43683463)

That simply does not exist any more

With respect, are you really trying to say there are no reactors remaining of the same design as that one in Chernobyl? If you are, then please stop spouting shit that a quick google search would have shown you is shit and instead comment on a topic that you know more than zero about.

Re:Greed (2)

fnj (64210) | about a year ago | (#43683589)

So you don't think Fukushima had massively destructive consequences? Forced long term evacuation doesn't bother you? Contamination of groundwater? Contamination of the ocean food chain? Destruction isn't just junks of conrete and nuclear fuel being blown sky high. There are many forms of destruction.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683535)

Nuclear has cheap running costs. You cannot take this as low cost, unless you are illiterate about money.

Capital costs are very high for nuclear. It starts with funding the project- they fucking need Government insurance for that! Otherwise, no bids. That should make you wonder...
Then the project itself lives from heavy subsidies done at the time of construction: buyoff land, create infrastructure, etc.
In operation, the biggest unseen issue is the fact that those plants do not carry full insurance. That alone would make the power plants impossible to operate at any economical level.
So the libertarians who are for nuclear actually want us all to take the cost of the risk, for the money to go to some companies that actually did not take any risk while bidding for the project, because its financing was insured by the government. Sounds like USSR all around for me, with a spike of capitalist China.
To top the cake, no concept is really working for storage and recycling of waste over the thousands/milions of years. You hear ideas, but they are not implemented or are crazy. As economists will tell you, any OPEX spread long enough will offset any profit you do only once. But offffff course, again that cost goes to us taxpayers... and to the environment and our children... again who cares about them...

Delayed impact (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43683621)

Also bear in mind that the waste we're getting to deal with today - the waste that sets the tone about nuclear safety - is the end product of a really dodgy design process done decades ago. We can make safer, cleaner nuclear reactors now, but that's not going to make the slightest bit of difference to our clean-up operations for quite some time.

Nuclear power really screwed itself.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683505)

Sorry, no. We oppose nuclear power because of your ignorance.

Re:Greed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683097)

Only in 'MERICA, land of the believers, is this getting modded down. Because you simply don't get it. (And neither does this poster.) Typical US discussion: Moron vs. retard. NOBODY of you is right!

First of all, it's as if every single one of you morons is completely oblivious to the fact that uranium runs out even before oil.

And that while, yes, nuclear power is safe when done right, it is never done right!
It is done by the cheapest contractor with the most brainwashing lobbyists, and done in the same shittiest way that every other government construction is fucked up.

Finally, we simply don't need nuclear power. You Americans have more dead deserts and wastelands than you could ever fill with solar power towers and pumped storage hydro basins. HVDC lines exist since forever. There simply is no reason to wear down a ultra-rare dangerous resource and use all that tech to keep it going well. No reason apart from greedy industrialists that control the media and politics and wash your tiny little cattletard American brains.

And that is why nuclear power is for utter morons and morons only! It has nothing to do the safety of the general concept! It has to do with Americans being by definition completely blind and obedient retards with no free will, who rage over everything they are told to rage over and actually think they have a opinion of their own, even when they never ever actually check something with their own senses and all they know is being told by their industry opinion makers (and Ritalin, Adderall, Xanax and McDonalds Crapfood of course).

Re:Greed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683225)

First of all, it's as if every single one of you morons is completely oblivious to the fact that uranium runs out even before oil.

Thorium FTW.

No reason apart from greedy industrialists that control the media and politics and wash your tiny little cattletard American brains.

And I sit here smugly confident that you've never had the balls to run your mouth (let me guess, Eurotrash, am I right?) to an "American's" face in that manner. It's just like my Aussie friends when the POM bastards talk shit over the interwebs, then they go down under and suddenly their pasty white POM skin and their lack of intestinal fortitude show their true nature in the harsh Oz environment.

Re: Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683279)

Australia FTW, cunts.

Re:Greed (2)

berashith (222128) | about a year ago | (#43683239)

who rage over everything they are told to rage over and actually think they have a opinion of their own

the irony here is delicious

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683253)

I find it very difficult to disagree with this post.

Re:Greed (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#43683281)

I could rant too, but I just need to pick up on something.

Current estimates of WHAT WE KNOW NOW, just for Uranium, with current technology and current prices? Gives us about 700 years of nuclear power. If we haven't found something else by then, we're in trouble. And that's JUST Uranium.

Oil? In terms of usefulness for energy production, we'll be lucky to get 100. Damn lucky.

Flying is pretty safe when done right. We got there in the end. Space travel is pretty safe when done right. We got there too. And we got there by government intervention. It's not good enough to write off a technology because people mishandle it - we have to find ways to make mishandling impossible and/or impose extremely severe penalties for mishandling, with billions of guidelines for what to do and what not to do. Fact is, 50 years ago we were still putting asbestos in buildings materials. It took a LONG time to learn that it was stupid and even longer for government to stop it happening. But abandoning all housebuilding until we sort the problem wasn't really an option.

Some countries don't need nuclear power. Granted. Some do. Exports from the US can't covert the world. And there's a question of efficiency. Although the US *might* be able to produce all its own energy - at what cost? Not just environmental (apparently, that's our grandchildren's problem, as always), but sheer financial. Not much scales as nicely as nuclear, or we wouldn't still be using it. When you "need" Gigawatts, you have two choices - fossil or nuclear. The renewables are an interesting distraction at the moment, but we could really argue that until Uranium runs out.

And, to be honest, nobody cares about yours or my opinions. They mean nothing. What matters is that it's possible to make an AWFUL lot of money out of nuclear by providing a product that people are willing to pay through the nose for (electricity) DESPITE the huge amount of infrastructure, planning, waste disposal, and safety concerns. No nuclear power station has ever not been profitable for the people running it.

The trick is not to argue over how to supply people with megawatt-hours of electricity to their house. We have any number of ways to do it, and they all cost about the same in the long run. The trick is to work out how to stop people requiring megawatt-hours of electricity each in the first place. Because that's madly-unsustainable in the long-term until we have some other technological breakthrough.

Fact is, until then, we're like someone in the 1920's arguing over what blend of petrol is more efficient in our non-catalytic-convertor cars, while still making a big mess for others to clear up through what is basically laziness and greed.

Re:Greed (3, Interesting)

AlecC (512609) | about a year ago | (#43683437)

... Not just environmental (apparently, that's our grandchildren's problem, as always)

Though in this case, we are the grandchildren of those who set up Hanford. The chickens are coming home to roost - on us.

Re:Greed (1, Insightful)

ionix5891 (1228718) | about a year ago | (#43683115)

Except your windmills and solar panels need all sorts of exotic arare earth materials which cause huge amounts of environmental damage when mining and processing in places such as China, out of sight out of mind eh?

Re:Greed (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683157)

These same rare earths are needed for nuclear power plants (neodymium magnets, copper wires and suchlike). Indeed they are needed for all power plants.

But once they were used in nuclear power plants, radioactive contamination makes them impossible to recycle.

Re:Greed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683435)

You realize they have different sections. They aren't bolting generators to the core right ?

derp.

Re:Greed (3, Informative)

Christian Smith (3497) | about a year ago | (#43683647)

These same rare earths are needed for nuclear power plants (neodymium magnets, copper wires and suchlike). Indeed they are needed for all power plants.

But once they were used in nuclear power plants, radioactive contamination makes them impossible to recycle.

That's just pure FUD. Anything on the clean side of the reactor (basically anything this side of the primary heat exchanger is just like any other power plant. I can asure you anything copper is no where near the "dirty" side of the reactor, it just isn't a suitable material. And I'm not sure why you'd need neodymium magnets anywhere. I'd imagine any generator or motor magnets would be eletromagnets.

Even for materials exposed to nuclear waste, things like metals can be cleaned then recycled, the cleanup waste then being considered nuclear waste. Most metals can be recycled. Concrete that's been exposed to nuclear waste (like water from cooling ponds) can be tricky, but metal cladding is used for such ponds, that can be stripped and cleaned, leaving the underlying concrete clean of nuclear contaminants.

Wow, so wind turbines are used up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683177)

Oh, no, you're talking shite, the rare earths (which not all designs need) aren't used up and can be recycled.

And, please, you can't play the "Oh, the poor enviornment" card when you're doing far far worse elsewhere with oil, coal, rare earths (what the fuck do you think is in your mobile phone, retard?), uranium and fracking water.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683291)

solar panels are made from glass and silicon, both basically sand, one of the least rare materials. some exotic material are used to turn silicon insulators into semi-conductors, but that only needs about one rare atom in millions of silicon atoms.
The slices of silicon are now 0.2mm (or less) think, so 95% of solar panels is just plain glass. Yes, 0.000001% of the remaining 5% is actually a relativity rare material, but the needed amounts are so minuscule that the environmental damage when mining them is minimal.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683501)

No rare earths in Silicon Wafer-based photovoltaics, but it is fun to see how long conveniently-placed myths live.
Slatdosh-ers have a tendency pro-nuclear that I never understood in an otherwise clever bunch. I guess it is a matter of "nuclear feels bad-ass, my testosterone gets high, who cares" thing

Re:Greed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683173)

Uh, this was a military complex, operating to produce weapons-grade material and experimenting with weapons chemistry. And one who's poor practices were started decades ago, before there was a commercial nuclear industry. Not a commercial plant.

Re:Greed (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683187)

Hanford is not a civilian site. This is the waste from the plutonium production used for weapons.

Spent fuel from the civilian industry usually has the form of ceramic uranium oxide inside tubes made from a zirconium alloy.
You can vitrify that too ( England does) , but there is no absolute need for it. The geological disposal planned by Finland and Sweden
does not rely on it as example, and in the US reprocessing civilian nuclear fuel is currently illegal.

What you're doing is a little bit like pointing to aviation deaths in the air force and trying to claim it proves you should not travel with Airbus. It isn't very rational.

Re:Greed (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#43683525)

IANANP (you can work it out), but can't weapons-grade fissile material be used in a power plant? It is my understanding that the difference between power plant fuel and weapons payload is the quality of the material. Surely dismantled warheads can be reverse-refined (poisoned?) into something useable?

Re:Greed (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#43683623)

You can use it after you blend it down. But from what I understand Hanford does not store nuclear weapons warheads. It stores the waste from producing those warheads in the first place. The only way to burn that would be with a fast reactor. Which AFAIK at this moment only Russia, Japan, India and China have prototypes. The US closed is own prototype back when Clinton was President. The French closed their prototype after an enviro-wacko slammed an RPG round in the building.

Re:Greed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683635)

That is completely irrelevant. The GP posted that Hanford is an excuse to turn to renewables because Mr. Burns-types run all nuclear plants. What the GP failed to mention is that Hanford was built in the 1940s so that the US government would have a superweapon before the Nazis did. Mr. Burns didn't run Hanford, the Department of War did. And Hanford never made power, it simply made plutonium in a time when there were no nuclear power plants in the world and the risks of radiation and contamination were poorly understood.

The problems at Hanford have nothing to do with nuclear power. They have to do with the problems of building superweapons in the age when a radio was still a pretty neat invention and a television was mind-blowing.

Re:Greed (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#43683191)

Too bad the Hanford site is run by the government. But keep repeating your archetype lies - I'm sure wanting and hoping to believe them makes them true. It's like prayer for leftists.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683237)

Tell me again about the renewables that offer baseline load generation capability?

Didn't think so, stupid mother fucker.

Re:Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683645)

Hydro-fucking-electric biatch!

Re:Greed (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683323)

This got a +5 Mod? Dear God.

Hanford is the site of the US nuclear weapons development during WW 2 and the Cold War. Basically the idea was to do everything possible to make nuclear weapons. And they did so with gusto. They build plutonium production reactors, tore them apart, used chemical treatment systems that were modified as they were designed, and scraped up tiny bits of plutonium for the weapons. It had nothing to do with nuclear power, nor is a lesson on nuclear power. Hanford is only a lesson on how a group that doesn't understand the dangers of a brand new technology can make mistakes that are costly to fix decades later. It is a lesson on how if a group isn't aware that a certain danger exists, like many of the discovered issues with radioactivity since then, that the proper precautions may not be taken. Above all, it is not a lesson in any way about renewables!!!

Re:Greed (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43683345)

Except that the waste at Hanford is waste from nuclear weapon production. It's reactor waste, where the fuel was under-utilized so that it would maximize the amount of Pu-239 created, then dissolved in caustic and nasty chemicals in order to extract that Pu-239 from all the other nasty shit. Then, as people did in the 1960s, they put it in tanks in the ground, because what could possibly go wrong with putting radioactive acid in the ground, within walking distance of the second largest river in North America?

To say that the problems at Hanford have nuclear power to blame is like saying that the mining industry is to blame for drone strikes, because they both use explosives. The problems at Hanford are completely separate.

instead of pointing fingers (0)

toQDuj (806112) | about a year ago | (#43683041)

Instead of pointing fingers, let's focus on how to solve this problem...

Like maybe burn all the overzealous anti-nuclear campaigners.

Re:instead of pointing fingers (1)

berashith (222128) | about a year ago | (#43683245)

I dont think they are as efficient of a power source as nuclear, and are probably as dirty as coal.

Re:instead of pointing fingers (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43683431)

Yeah, but they're renewable. You're just returning the patchouli carbon back to the environment it came from to begin with. Like a wood fireplace!

Separate the fluids? (1)

mangu (126918) | about a year ago | (#43683053)

TFA says the waste has settled into layers, solids at the bottom, and the system they have will mix it all and pump out the sludge.

Wouldn't it be smarter to pump the liquids out first, and worry about the solid part later? They say the most urgent problem is that some tanks are leaking, and solids don't leak.

Re:Separate the fluids? (1)

megla (859600) | about a year ago | (#43683083)

The problem with that proposal is that you need the liquids to enable the solids to be moved - if you don't have any liquids, those solids are stuck there. Then you have a tank full of toxic, strongly radioactive salt and crud. What you gonna do now, son?

Re:Separate the fluids? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#43683125)

Concrete. Lots and lots of concrete.

Re:Separate the fluids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683313)

If they used any more concrete, the cement production will have cost more energy than the nuclear reactions produced. It's all possible and very interesting, but economically pointless.

Re:Separate the fluids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683151)

Surround the now non leaking tank with lead or something and then you can pump it full of liquids again and do what ever you need to do? I don't know, but sounds like an option though.

Re:Separate the fluids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683331)

Robots/remotes to excavate it out. At least you wouldn't have the problem of the stuff moving around on its own, and subsequent to getting the liquids out of there, the remaining solids wouldn't be as much of a hazard in the tanks for leakage (unless liquids get back in, such as groundwater). Honestly, I don't understand why they're fixated on moving solids and liquids at the same time either. Drain the damn liquids first, deal with them, then deal with the solids with a separate process. There must be a good reason why they're not taking this approach, but I don't get it.

Re:Separate the fluids? (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#43683119)

It really doesn't matter anyway. The nuclear waste that's travelling through the groundwater on its way to the Columbia River left the tanks decades ago. There is no way to stop it from reaching the river now.

Re:Separate the fluids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683251)

It may be impossible to 'just pump the liquids out' without stirring up the sludge, depending on the layout of the piping and the way the sludge has settled.

Let me guess.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683109)

Underpaid, undervalued engineers and operators lead to an environment of low morale and 'give a shit' factor.

Goddamn Carter (1, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#43683171)

Seriously, why don't we just "burn" this? Add it as a contaminant to the fuel rods used in other reactors (or more realistically, since most of the waste comes from spent fuel rods, start recycling the damned things instead of trying to bury them).

All the furor over Yucca or Hanford or wherever, just to honor one of the single most short-sighted executive orders ever issued? Time to tell Carter where to stick his legendarily failed energy policy and move into 20th century tech for handling waste.

Re: Goddamn Carter (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683295)

Or better yet, 21st century tech!

Re:Goddamn Carter (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683361)

It sounds like a great idea, except that most of the problem would remain the same: moving and separating a slurry of highly radioactive material of varied and dangerous compositions, and instead of the "simple" process of enclosing it in glass, you're trying to turn it into fuel or at least a stable enough form that you could put into a reactor. Do what they're doing now, AND engineer the stuff to be stuck into a reactor at the end of the process? I'm guessing that would probably make it ten times harder to do. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be worth a try, but the payoff would have to be awfully big to justify the extra complexity.

And I don't know why you're blaming Carter. No president or legislature before or since then has done any better job of it. They've been talking about "solving the US energy crisis" for decades. At least he was honest about the problem.

Re:Goddamn Carter (4, Interesting)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43683373)

Hanford's waste isn't fuel rods. It's what fuel rods are turned into after being dissolved in acids to extract weapons-grade Plutonium. The vast majority is in a liquid state, combined with caustic chemicals as a waste product from the PUREX process. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Goddamn Carter (2)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43683391)

Interesting argument, but incorrect. This crap was tipped into tanks a long time before Carter bacame POTUS.
Superficially, your argument looks interesting from an efficiency and waste disposal point of view.
After all, TFA says there's half a ton of plutonium mixed up in all the crap in the various tanks.
Sure, "burn" it! Urm, but where? Nearly all he FB reactors have been shut down. Gonna build one in Hanford?

Also, it seems that it's already insanely difficult and expensive just to figure out how to get the crap out of the tanks and vitrified safely. Trying to separate out the various forms of waste further, and then reprocess into rods would add another layer of complexity and cost.

Re:Goddamn Carter (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43683543)

It's not just waste fuel, it's waste, a heady mix of solids, liquids, gels and gases, variously impregnated with actual radio-isotopes at just enough of a level to make it all stupendously dangerous. It's going to be an incredibly hazardous ordeal to get it into containers, separation is completely off the table. There are some dumped fuel rods in there IIRC but they're probably not in any state to be reprocessed.

Sad Sacks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683221)

this place would be all cleaned up 5 years ago if Democrats had gotten out of the way.

Don't you just love Government? (4, Informative)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about a year ago | (#43683299)

In 2000, the DoE and Bechtel National, Inc. (the contractor retained to build the Vitrification plant at Hanford) began construction of the plant before the design of the critical elements of the plant had been completed - in fact, before the design of many of those elements had even been started. The goal, to save time and money.
Trying to build a house? No problem... our construction team have built a few of those so they know what to do based on early architectural sketches and teamwork. But this is not a house, it is a vitrification plant for 50+ million gallons of the worst nuclear waste in the world with a total radioactive potential of around 170-180 million curies (Cernobyl released about half that). Oh, and that shit is not only hot radioactively, it is hot temperature-wise too.
Today, 60 of 177 storage tanks are leaking with the rest at a high risk of leaking, and if all goes well the complex to house the worst of the waste after vitrification will be built by 2048, with the whole vitrification process completed by 2062. Unless there are delays... after all, this is a government project, they are good at hitting project deadlines, right?
Each tank is layered, with a relatively solid layer at the bottom, a salt cake above that, then sludge followed by liquid and a gas layer. Sounds a bit like my toilet after a bad Chinese meal... only more of it. Most of the radioactivity is in the solids and sludge whereas most of the volume is in the liquids and the salt cake - you need the liquid to transfer the rest through the crappy piping and filters from the storage tanks to the vitrification plant, and it all has to flow fast enough to keep the solids moving without causing any blockages or radioactive buildups.
To top it all off, the glass mixture used in the vitrification process has to be tailoered to the mixture in the tank, and given the diversity of radioactive processes, materials and production methods in use on site, there will be at least 10 compounts required, with no way of knowing what is in what tank short of analysing the contents and getting a representative sample of everything in the tank.

Simple :-S

To my layman's mind, two things come to mind - 1. The whole thing is a complete clusterfuck, and it will be a miracle if the whole lot does not end very badly. 2, Top priority is to contain the leak in the immediate vicinity, but short of digging some massive trenches and excavating a huge foundation then filling the whole lot with some kind of radioactive-resistant concrete, and doing it in such a way that you can inspect the result for leaks, I cannot see how they are going to manage that.
Time to call in Bruce Willis and get him to start drilling, I guess.

Re:Don't you just love Government? (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43683395)

The biggest problem with things like this is that budgets and schedules are based on work that has been done before. Since no one has built a facility like this before, it's pretty much impossible to budget and schedule the construction of one. Also, it's not like you can go buy vitrification parts off a shelf somewhere, so the technology and equipment will have to be invented, hand-built, tested, and installed.

Say it with me now... (1, Informative)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#43683305)

Thorium molten salt reactors are much safer in the short and long term.

Re:Say it with me now... (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a year ago | (#43683405)

Except that this is waste from nuclear weapons production, dating back to the 1940s.

Please explain how LFTR solves a problem that's already existed for 70 years?

Re:Say it with me now... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43683561)

Yes, a thorium molten salt reactor, that's just what the nuclear weapons program needed. A reactor that can't be used to produce plutonium.

Not Hopeless but... (1)

captn ecks (525113) | about a year ago | (#43683409)

This is what happens when you are so frightened by a problem that you make it worse than if you had rationally dealt with it from the beginning. Storing the waste from each plant at the original site near populated areas is the worst case scenario for the dealing with this problem. The opposition to the Yucca Mountain facility has become politically irrational to the point of making impossible demands for it safe for millions of years. Thousands of years is completely feasible and just hundreds of years should be perfectly acceptable. All these by products will eventually be valuable resources to a future technology. It is criminal negligence and a national disgrace to keep these wastes in cooling pools and proposed dry casks at the plants where they were produced. One can only hope that rational decisions can be made in time to avert a self fulfilling disaster. The prospects for this look poor.

It's never a good sign... (2)

Quinn_Inuit (760445) | about a year ago | (#43683427)

...when ANY article includes the phrase "spontaneous criticality." Seriously, that's up there with "Honey, something's been bothering me" as a phrase you never, ever want to hear in any context.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...