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US Nuclear Plants Expanding Long-Term Waste Storage Facilities

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the just-make-sure-not-to-use-organic-litter dept.

Power 187

mdsolar (1045926) writes with news of nuclear plants across the U.S. dealing with the consequences of the failure of Yucca Mountain. From the article: "The steel and concrete containers used to store the waste on-site were envisioned as only a short-term solution when introduced in the 1980s. Now they are the subject of reviews by industry and government to determine how they might hold up — if needed — for decades or longer. With nowhere else to put its nuclear waste, the Millstone Power Station overlooking Long Island Sound is sealing it up in massive steel canisters on what used to be a parking lot. The storage pad, first built in 2005, was recently expanded to make room for seven times as many canisters filled with spent fuel. ... The government is pursuing a new plan for nuclear waste storage, hoping to break an impasse left by the collapse of a proposal for Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The Energy Department says it expects other states will compete for a repository ... But the plan faces hurdles including a need for new legislation that has stalled in Congress." There's always recycling or transmutation.

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Transmutation in SFRs or LWRs too (4, Informative)

ghack (454608) | about 3 months ago | (#47097095)

The link goes to information about proposed accelerator driven subcritical reactors, but you can transmute plutonium, minor actinides, and fission products in sodium fast reactors (SFRs) or light water reactors with inert matrix fuel (LWRs). SFRs have nearly the same spectrum neutron energy spectrum as most proposed ADS blankets, and the technology readiness level is much higher. Basically anything you can do in an ADS you can do in an SFR, but you don't have the added cost of an accelerator. Moderated targets would be required for fission product transmutation.

Passive decay heat removal is necessary whether you are talking about an ADS or an SFR. Other than the worst reactivity insertion accidents (which can be mitigated by negative reactivity coefficients) I do not see serious benefits to an ADS over an SFR.

Re:Transmutation in SFRs or LWRs too (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 3 months ago | (#47097141)

What about that wired article from YEARS ago about putting the waste in from of high energy (gamma?) ray to accelerate the half-life? Anyone?

Re:Transmutation in SFRs or LWRs too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097187)

What about it?

-Lana Reggin

Nuclear power is a battery (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47097993)

Unmaking the waste is the only responsible course. Using an accelerator to do that may require as much energy as nuclear power has provided. So, nuclear power is a battery that you use once and then have to pay back. Fossil fuels have some characteristics like this, but biochar production for carbon sequestration can be energy positive.

Re:Nuclear power is a battery (2)

ghack (454608) | about 3 months ago | (#47098041)

This comment is simply not true. Long-lived minor actinide/fission product waste transmutation can be accomplished in an energy-producing power reactor.

Re:Nuclear power is a battery (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47098261)

Not necessarily in a safe manner.

Re:Nuclear power is a battery (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47099203)

Not necessarily in a safe manner.

Not necessarily in an economic manner either. Conventional nukes have safe-to-handle inputs, and highly radioactive outputs. If both the inputs and outputs are highly radioactive, costs go way up. Nukes are already uncompetitive with shale gas, and in many markets, can't even compete with wind. Nuke costs are rising while everything else is falling. That isn't even considering that nukes receive subsidized insurance, and have chronically underfunded their decommissioning reserves. Before making any long term plans, we may want to wait till after the mid-term elections in November. If Harry Reid is no longer the senate majority leader, the waste issue may be much easier to resolve.

Re:Nuclear power is a battery (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47100435)

Regardless of Reid, Yucca can't go forward. There was too much pressure to make it happen and the quality assurance measures broke. Now we don't know what else is wrong with the project. A new look at transmutation is what we really need. If transmutation is the policy, then shorter term storage is an interim option. That means that we can pull back from sea level rise and other power plant site specific problems.

Re:Nuclear power is a battery (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47099183)

You know why your claim is nonsense? There is a simple saying: "In theory practice and theory don't differ. In practice they do!"
So, in theory you can transmute an element in a reactor, either by neutron capture or probably proton. Or you could aim for spallatation (smashing the nucleus into smithereens).
However the first problem is: you need to have neutrons - or what ever is suitable for your particular element - that have the correct speed to be captured, otherwise they just get deflected like a ping pong ball used in a billiard game.
So, when you finally found a way to have your reactor transmute a huge deal of lets say Iodine, it won't transmute anything else.
So your second problem is to have a reactor that can produce on demand a certain "radiation" to transmute a certain element, and switch to a different speed/particle/energy to transmute another element.
I doubt we are able to build such reactors in practice.

Re:Nuclear power is a battery (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | about 3 months ago | (#47099063)

Using an accelerator (combined with a spallation target) causes fission events...it creates 9x more energy than the accelerator consumes. Belgium is currently constructing a pilot plant.

Re:Nuclear power is a battery (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47099167)

Fission event produce more waste, not less.

Re:Transmutation in SFRs or LWRs too (2)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 3 months ago | (#47098749)

Yup. Remember the IFR design?

I think one of the statistics was that it could meet all of our electrical needs for a century - using only waste from existing reactors. (and that statistic was two decades ago.)

In addition to extracting much more energy from the fuel, the waste was much easier to manage. While it was EXTREMELY radioactive initially, the volume of the waste was very low, and more importantly, within 200 years it would decay to the point where it was safe (radiologically speaking, at least. Some of those metals are nasty even when a stable isotope.)

Re:Transmutation in SFRs or LWRs too (1)

delt0r (999393) | about 3 months ago | (#47099215)

Every liquid sodium reactor built to date has suffered periodic sodium fires. Its not as ready as you think. Also you are leaving out the fact that fast reactors are much harder to control and even more so, as in impossible, with too much actinides in the fuel. Sub critical assembly's with ADS was suggested for this reason.

Re:Transmutation in SFRs or LWRs too (2)

Cyberax (705495) | about 3 months ago | (#47100077)

Beloyarsk power plant has a fast-neutron reactor ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org] ). It's been working without major incidents for about 35 years.

How convenient... (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47097099)

Thankfully, the American Mall, once a backbone of the consumer experience, has apparently hit hard times, thus freeing up a substantial (probably depressing) amount of parking lot. If Millstone Station has developed advanced parking-lot-storage technology, we should be set for centuries to come!

Elephant in the Room (2, Insightful)

ks*nut (985334) | about 3 months ago | (#47097199)

There is a disconnect - there is an incredible amount of nuclear waste from our power generation plants and from weapon production. That waste needs to be safely stored for thousands of years. Somehow steel storage tanks don't address the reality of the situation.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 months ago | (#47097553)

The reality is pressure groups who do not wish the stuff stored in any form in the desert in California or an apparently less suitable site in Nevada. It could scare off the tourists.
Cut back on lobbying from the gambling industry, or bribery in general, and there's some hope other than storing the stuff in place waiting for another comedy of errors like what happened at Fukushima.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#47097607)

Thing is, storing it above ground is so much cheaper(and the only current option), that it's currently the best option.

Besides, give it a few hundred years and the radiation guards for reprocessing it should be trivial. The above-ground casks can easily last that long.

Re:Elephant in the Room (3, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 3 months ago | (#47098187)

> The above-ground casks can easily last that long.

Really, no. Between simple exposure and the fascinating chemical interactions with the low level radio-active material of numerous kinds, there's no evidence that the inexpensive containers will last that long. It's much like a start-up companies sales chart: a few early bits of information are extrapolated into a hopelessly optimistic long term graph that is unlikely to be relevent even for the next six months, much less the next 50 years.

There's a reasonable Scientific American article about this at http://www.scientificamerican.... [scientificamerican.com] . They're apparently only rated for 100 years, and I consider that _extremely_ optimistic.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47098397)

Actually, there is very good data on how concrete and steel interact in an irradiated environment over the long term. Not 1000 years, but 100 years for a thick stainless steel and concrete container that has no need to serve as a pressure boundary is not hard to achieve, and its likely with more work needed that they can be shown to last for much longer, with some modifications if needed of course.

Why do you consider them inexpensive?

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47099209)

Hm, we can not even build a concrete/steel building/bridge that lasts significantly longer than hundred years ... bold claims you make.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47099357)

Actually, we can build bridges that last 100 years. The fact that not all bridges were built to last that long is not the measure. Bridges in many respects are a challenge because of the multiple forces they experience in combination with a wide range of environmental interfaces that controlled storage doesn't have to deal with. Not to say that there isn't a list of technical challenges for fuel storage, but we've been able to build some pretty hefty structures that withstand huge forces over time, and we've certainly advanced in our knowledge of materials and degradation significantly since many bridges built even 50 years ago, which are in decent shape, were designed and constructed.

In short, to say we cannot build a bridge that lasts 100 years is quite false.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47098323)

Besides, give it a few hundred years and the radiation guards for reprocessing it should be trivial. The above-ground casks can easily last that long.

Out of curiosity, the same kind of curiosity engendered by a train derailment which kills several hundred, why would you think that the above-ground casks can easily last that long? A hundred years is a good estimate of a practical upper limit before a concrete and steel structure has serious problems. Steel is an incredible failure waiting to happen in this context.

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 3 months ago | (#47098677)

A hundred years is a good estimate of a practical upper limit before a concrete and steel structure has serious problems.

Steel maybe, but we have concrete structures up to 2000 years old. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome [wikipedia.org]

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 3 months ago | (#47099109)

A hundred years is a good estimate of a practical upper limit before a concrete and steel structure has serious problems.

Steel maybe, but we have concrete structures up to 2000 years old. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome [wikipedia.org]

Yes, but none of those thousands of year old structures are reinforced concrete. While reinforced concrete is stronger, the iron in the reinforced steel part oxidizes over time, even when in concrete. Our modern reinforced structures will last no where near as long as those older structures have.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47099241)

The dome is made of concrete, the rest is marble and granite ... and for the matter of fact: with roman concrete, not with our days shit. The formula how to make such concrete was just rediscovered a year ago.

Re:Elephant in the Room (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097617)

...but they do address the immediacy of it!

Proper design requires time, and we do what we can to buy the time.

Re:Elephant in the Room (5, Insightful)

knightghost (861069) | about 3 months ago | (#47098317)

We have the design and site. Yucca was killed because Reid runs the senate.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 3 months ago | (#47099265)

We have the design and site. Yucca was killed because Reid runs the senate.

And that's why we should ship all of the waste to his back yard until a better place is found to store it. He can also start repaying the $9 billion that has already been spent on Yucca mountain. There's another $30 billion sitting in a fund for the operation of Yucca mountain paid by (nuclear) consumers to operate Yucca. And the fees that were charged to the nuclear plants to fund this also expired 13 days ago.

Re:Elephant in the Room (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47100071)

> Reid runs the senate.

And Reid has an A+ rating from the NRA. No man has done more to damage humanity than that DINO. He is the model Republcian. He hates minorities and the poor. He is so very pro-violence that the NRA has given him cash and awards. Those Republicans hate the environment so they don't allow somewhere safe to store their garbage.

Re:Elephant in the Room (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097707)

There is a disconnect - there is an incredible amount of nuclear waste from our power generation plants and from weapon production. That waste needs to be safely stored for thousands of years. Somehow steel storage tanks don't address the reality of the situation.

If thousands of years is the requirement, then we should be creating solutions that get waste off the damn planet.

If we're still creating radioactive waste from weapons production, then something is horribly wrong (or horribly standard, as the fuel used here is corruption)

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

plover (150551) | about 3 months ago | (#47098663)

Off the planet? I don't think you understand how amazingly expensive that is. First, you've got the costs (and environmental damage) of the fuel needed to push all that stuff up and out of Earth's gravity, and get it to the sun. Remember the Saturn 5? It was the largest heavy lifting rocket ever built. Fully fueled it weighed 2,900,000 kg (131,000 kg empty), and could lift 100,000 kg to the moon. It remains one of mankind's most impressive machines.

Next, think about the reliability of rockets. Do you really want a launch failure to spray spent fuel rods all over the launch pad, the ocean, or the planet? Out of the 13 Saturn 5s that were launched, 12 were successful. Is the world ready to put its nuclear waste on top of that track record?

One average reactor produces perhaps 27,000 kg of high level waste per year [http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Nuclear-Wastes/Radioactive-Waste-Management/]. That doesn't count the shielding needed to protect everything else while it sits on top of the rocket and flies up. For a wild guess, and to make the math a bit simpler, let's just say it works out to 100,000 kg total. That's one Saturn 5 launch to dispose of the annual waste of one reactor. Now multiply that number by the hundreds of reactors in operation around the globe. You're probably talking at least one Saturn 5 launch per day, forever.

Maybe you are hoping there would be efficiencies of scale that would make the task cheaper and safer over time. Surely if we launched 365 days a year, we'd get really good at it. We'd eventually arrive at a 100% safety and success track record. Or maybe we'd figure out a space elevator. However, it turns out that it doesn't matter what kind of technological breakthroughs we have, it still takes a tremendous amount of energy to lift mass out of earth's gravity. And like every other energy problem on this planet, where's that energy going to come from? Nuclear?

Realistically, we have to figure out how to deal with that stuff down here, on the ground.

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

SomeoneFromBelgium (3420851) | about 3 months ago | (#47097753)

When discussing storage of nuclear waste eveyone seems to think about storage underground first.

For me it seems that since we are talking about often 1000 years and more this is actually a bad idea. AFAIK there is no container capable of storing nuclear wase for so long. So it seems to me that it would be best to store it above the ground in a remote and geological stable and secure building but with the necessary processing capabilities for transferring the content to a new container when the curren one starts to leak.

And yes that will cost more that putting it in the ground and hoping for the best...

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 3 months ago | (#47097923)

Had someone stuck this nuclear waste in an Egyptian pyramid, it would still be there, 3000 years later. So, why can't we do as well now?

Re:Elephant in the Room (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097987)

you mean, that the egyptian pyramids are hermetically sealed?

Brilliant (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47098425)

We could even get people to pay to help build the thing as part of a theme vacation. Everyone put on an Egyptian kilt and eyeshadow and grab a rope. On three now: heave!

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

necro81 (917438) | about 3 months ago | (#47098451)

Had someone stuck this nuclear waste in an Egyptian pyramid, it would still be there, 3000 years later

No - the pyramids are still there, but the contents were cleaned out ages ago. The entire history of humanity shows that we aren't very good at hiding, protecting, or forgetting things that are valuable, beautiful, or otherwise useful to other people. All the pyramids were broken into an looted. Building pyramid tombs were abandoned because they couldn't be protected, and the pharaohs started being buried in underground tombs in the Valley of Kings. Those, too, were rediscovered and looted. Tutankhamen's tomb was such a big deal because it was one of the few was succcessfully lost/forgotten, and thus not raided.

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 3 months ago | (#47098747)

Having radioactive waste in a pyramid would be a real curse for the tomb robbers...

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

grahamsz (150076) | about 3 months ago | (#47099971)

Only over a very long timeline.

I almost thing the best solution would be to put something so radioactive right by the door that anyone who enters will be dead within a few days. That way there's much less chance of future archaeologists from pulling out fuel rods and stuff that will cause a slow death to many people.

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

unrtst (777550) | about 3 months ago | (#47098727)

Agreed.
I know just enough that I don't know why this is still being debated. AFAIK:

a) Yucca mountain (or similar) plan: dig a really deep hole in a (presumably) very stable and large rock; shove all the waste from NN years in it (waste with a giant half life); cap it off decades from now and hang a sign saying, "in year YYYY, please review, reprocess, recontain, or come up with a new magic bullet to clean up this dump"... where YYYY is something like 500-5000 years from now.

b) There *are* ways to reprocess the waste. Those can, and often do, have a net possitive energy output (ie. they'd make more electricity). The waste from those is more volitile (ex. weapons grade stuff) but, as such, has a MUCH smaller half life. Storage of that waste would require a couple hundred hears, rather than thousands of years.

c) The current "temporary" on site storage is not sustainable.

d) no one wants "a" in their backyard. Statements like, "Cut back on lobbying from the gambling industry, or bribery in general..." and it's an easy solution to just stick it in the desert or in a mountainin Nevada, are really irritating. How about those that used the energy deal with the mess they've made? (and no, I'm not from CA or NV)

I'm sure someone will disagree with every one of the above points on some technicallity, but I've yet to see anything that contradicts those in general.

As such, doing "b" seems like the only sensible thing to do. If "b" was done, then I'd be pretty surprised if "a" wasn't more acceptible. The fact that it'd be more immediately dangerous materal would almost guarentee that we the people would not suddenly withdraw support in 50 years, leaving a contanimated and unmaintained site.

A combo of red tape and greed is all that keeps us from doing "b". Reprocessing is more expensive when viewed as a power plant in direct comparison to other power plants, but power generation should be seen as nothing but gravy... it's reducing our waste; getting power out of that process is just an added bonus.

A bit offtopic, but if we're going to cover nevada in something, let's blanket it with a solar array (potasium or salt type, or a mix of lots of tech, whatever). That'd make enough power to run the whole country ("what about at night?" - shut up... there's lots of ways to temporarily store power, from simple things like pumping water up into a resevior and using a damn for night time generation, to much more technical solutions). Yes, power distribution needs solved; Yes, this is expensive; but it doesn't make waste that lasts for thousands of years, nor does it burn anything, let alone limitted resources like coal and oil.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#47099683)

The waste from those is more volitile (ex. weapons grade stuff) but, as such, has a MUCH smaller half life.

Umm, weapons grade Pu/U have half-lives measured in tens of thousands of years (Pu) to hundreds of millions of years (U).

And neither should properly be considered "waste". Both can be used as fuel for nuclear reactors.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

Chas (5144) | about 3 months ago | (#47100161)

Sorry, but your power storage fantasies for solar are just that. There's, quite literally nothing in the pipeline suitable for storing the raw amount of power you're talking about. That's also failing to mention the types of environmental damage that such solar installations go hand in hand with.

Honestly, the money would be better put into better reactor tech. Things like LFTR. Where the the few byproducts that AREN'T industrially, scientifically or medically useful are EXTREMELY short-lived.

If Nevada wants to glass itself over for solar power production, fine. It's a good source of peak power.

Re:Elephant in the Room (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 months ago | (#47098615)

" there is an incredible amount of"
Actually the amount is very small when you compare it to the other waste produced making power. The difference is 100% is captured vs just pumped into the air.

" That waste needs to be safely stored for thousands of years"

Not if the fuel is reprocessed.

Re:Elephant in the Room (3, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47099099)

There is a great skew in risk perception, in large part due to association with weapons, Hollywood portrayals, and general FUD mongering. I find it interesting that the average person exposes themselves to an untold number of toxic chemicals and materials. We live and work among pesticides, herbicides, and material coatings and preservatives. We expose great numbers of workers to manufacturing process hazards, breath dust from construction materials and lists of other airborne contaminant sources, and eat foods with additives we don't even recognize.

Yet, when we have a comparably small amount of waste, kept away from us, that has not harmed a soul, in tightly controlled containers, is easy to monitor and detect even the smallest presence outside its compartment, it causes the country to freeze in fear. And considering that the waste is from an energy source that has offset the generation of more airborne pollutants than wind and solar combined can hope to offset in the next two decades, and you just have to wonder. Yes, there are problems with nuclear waste, but in the bigger scheme of things, we have to weigh those risks against the risk of failure to reduce the continued increasing emissions globally, betting that less affordable and reliable sources in a few countries will really get us where we need to be.

Re:Elephant in the Room (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 3 months ago | (#47099065)

There is a disconnect - there is an incredible amount of nuclear waste from our power generation plants and from weapon production. That waste needs to be safely stored for thousands of years. Somehow steel storage tanks don't address the reality of the situation.

I agree. We should use steel and concrete containers.

what a waste (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#47097255)

What is really needed is for the feds to spend some of that storage money on new molten thorium salt reactors that can convert nearly all of the 'waste' into fuel. In fact, I wonder if we could build a conversion unit into several rail-road cars that would allow on-site processing and then move to a new site.

Regardless, all of these short term solutions are SO wasteful, while ignoring better long-term solutions.
While I appreciate that Obama is pushing for a solution on the illegals (which if done right, will also solve the minimum wage issues), he also needs to focus on his 'all of the above' that he spoke about WRT energy.

Re:what a waste (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 3 months ago | (#47097537)

Why would the feds have to invest in that? What you propose is just another subsidy by a government that is already almost bankrupt. Why not allow the corporations to exploit this very interesting and profitable market? [/sarcasm]

Re:what a waste (4, Insightful)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | about 3 months ago | (#47098097)

It would not be a subsidy. The Nuclear Waste Fund [wikipedia.org] has accumulated a balance of $25 billion dollars, paid in fees over the years by nuclear plant operators. The parent is only suggesting that it be spent on developing the technology which has the greatest potential for managing the "waste", rather than waiting it out. In the end, those are the only two options: fission it, or bury it.

Nuclear "waste" and "spent fuel" are misnomers, as conventional reactors extract less than 1% of the energy from mined uranium. It is insane to treat it as waste, when the technology exists to completely transform the remainder into energy, while eliminating virtually all of the long term radioactivity. The technology was proven decades ago, and the remaining development and commercialization could be completed using a small fraction of the available fund.

Molten salt reactors like LFTR [wikipedia.org] would not only produce enormous amounts of electricity from that "waste", but also valuable medical isotopes, radioisotopic fuel for space probes, and rare earths. As a high temperature reactor, even the rejected "waste" heat has many potential uses, including desalination and producing ammonia [energyfromthorium.com] or other synthetic liquid fuels. Another interesting application is carbon neutral cement [energyfromthorium.com] .

Discouraging development of nuclear not only prevents safer designs and a solution for the waste issue, but also assures continuing dependence on fossil fuels in the many cases for which renewables are not suitable. (Including the production of more renewables, which require a whole lot of steel and concrete. Or to provide energy while the wind and sun are unavailable.)

Re:what a waste (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#47098419)

Even if you used it in an LFTR you would still have waste at the end of it, only now it is high level waste that is very hard to deal with during decommissioning. It has to go somewhere, so even though there is less off it you still need to spend billions on a long term storage facility. Given that inevitability it doesn't seem sensible to start throwing money at LFTR until you have the storage facility in place.

In any case you ignored the GP's point. If LFTR is such a great idea and an opportunity to turn waste into profit why is no-body lining up to invest in it? The reality is that the commercial risks involved in developing such a plant are so great that only the Chinese government is willing to pump money into it. The Indians have been trying for decades to get it going and got pretty much no-where, and all the research reactors built in the west have had major issues. There is also the issue of decommissioning, which doesn't seem to be worrying China but is a major consideration for anyone in the west.

Re:what a waste (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | about 3 months ago | (#47098803)

Decommissioning a LFTR poses no special difficulty, and all of the salt can be recycled for use in a new plant. If anything, the liquid fuel simplifies the process. The fission products are continuously removed so that they do not build up, and can be stored safely. The bulk of them (87%) stabilize within ten years, and the remaining require storage for only a few hundred years. Starting with thorium, very few long lived actinides are produced, and those are continuously recycled into the fuel salt. Only a tiny amount of even that is lost to the waste stream due to reprocessing inefficiencies.

As the storage requirements for LFTR waste are vastly simplified, it makes little sense to insist on building yet another a huge and expensive facility dedicated to storing spent LWR fuel in the interim. Dry casks at plant sites are perfectly adequate for the time being. Even with much increased global energy demands supplied exclusively by nuclear, the waste produced still reaches steady-state at a minuscule quantity. All the waste on earth would fit on a plot of land roughly the size of a wal-mart, though there is no need to geographically concentrate such an insignificant quantity.

China is investing in molten salt reactors because the technology has been proven, and the commercial risks are small. Without the obscene regulatory burden and uncertainty introduced by the dysfunctional permitting process in the west, there would be no shortage of investors. India was pursuing thorium in solid fueled reactors in the past which offers little benefit, though even they have now turned their attention to molten salt reactors. There are many promising efforts and significant interest around the world from those who are actually serious about facing our energy crisis.

Re:what a waste (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | about 3 months ago | (#47099129)

" If anything, the liquid fuel simplifies the process. The fission products are continuously removed so that they do not build up, and can be stored safely. "

The second sentence completely contradicted the first. There is nothing simple, or even established yet, about continuously removing fission products from a highly caustic and radioactive liquid that is a few thousand degrees Celsius.

If we're talking about human error with regards to nuclear safety this makes even less sense! The amount and frequency of re-processing for LTFRs raises the potential for error significantly.

No, we need 'one stop shop' type reactors buried as columns in the ground that, once running, continue to do so without human intervention for decades. When the reaction is done, it also becomes the long-term storage facility.

Re:what a waste (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47099331)

I don't get why people who have not the singles clue how a (nuclear) reactor actually works are always hyping LFTRs.
When you decommission the reactor: everything in the inside is radioactive and needs to be treated accordingly.
Your claim that there is no special treatment necessary is just: bullshit. It needs at least THE SAME treatment any other fission reactor needs, and that already is very very expensive and very very special.

The rest of your post lost every credibility by claiming such nonsense, if it had any, and I'm not in the mood to debunk it ...

Re:what a waste (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 3 months ago | (#47100007)

The way I read it was that s/he meant special in relation to other existing reactors.

Re:what a waste (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#47100047)

Actually, you would have about 6% of what we have and it would be so low energy that it would be pretty much safe after 200 years, rather than 20,000 years.

Re:what a waste (1)

Chas (5144) | about 3 months ago | (#47100227)

Actually, a good chunk of the waste from LFTR are either industrially, medically or scientifically useful.

The little that's left may be what you classify as "high level" waste. But it's totally useless for making bombs. And while it's very "hot", it's also extremely short-lived.
Properly built and timelined, a good chunk of the waste generated will have decayed into safety by the time it comes to decommission the reactor and most of the material will decay into safety within a human lifetime. Instead of taking thousands of years.

Re:what a waste (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 3 months ago | (#47099635)

It would not be a subsidy. The Nuclear Waste Fund has accumulated a balance of $25 billion dollars, paid in fees over the years by nuclear plant operators.

The Nuclear Waste Fund is not going to cover 100% of the costs going forward.
Any money spent out of that fund is going to be money spent by the government later.

Why? Well, as we've been finding out, just about every nuclear plant designer/builder/operator underestimated how much it would cost to shut down and re-mediate nuclear power sites.

Re:what a waste (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#47100037)

wow. I thought it was over 100 B? Only 25B? That sux. Still, with say 10B from it invested into MST along with reprocessing of the waste, it would enable our nuke copmpanies to not only make a profit, but remove their waste.

Re:what a waste (1)

stdarg (456557) | about 3 months ago | (#47099181)

Why not allow the corporations to exploit this very interesting and profitable market? [/sarcasm]

You know that the market in enriching nuclear fuel, is umm rather tightly regulated?

That's why the feds would have to invest in that.

Re:what a waste (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#47100029)

Considering that we have some odd 100's of billions for nuke storage (supposedly), I would say lets invest that into pushing MTS reactors. That way, less than 6% of 'waste' has to be dealt with.

Re:what a waste (3, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 months ago | (#47097579)

The nuclear industry killed off the molten thorium salt reactor by lobbying against it due to fears of it's success cutting back on the lifetime of their investment in Uranium reactors and infrastructure. They drove the head of that project out of the nuclear industry for daring to suggest that thorium designs would be safer than existing plants. Unless something changes to prevent their opposition or to prevent them getting money into the right pockets your thorium dream is not going to happen in the USA.
However there is some hope in India, although some of their earlier thorium stuff was partly smokescreen for a weapon program. Molten stuff is potentially vastly cheaper than conventional reprocessing.

No (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47098021)

The molten salt experiment was a failure resulting in a huge mess.

Re:No (1)

Chas (5144) | about 3 months ago | (#47100265)

The molten salt experiment was a failure resulting in a huge mess.

Okay, now go and actually look at the history of LFTR and then come back when you're armed with facts.

Re:what a waste (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47098363)

^I think that's a fair characterization of the path we took, I'll only add that PWR technology was a bit easier to develop and refine for defense applications, making it the 'most commercial ready' technology available at the time when commercial nuclear power emerged.

I certainly think we continue to miss the boat with other nuclear generation technologies as a country.

Re:what a waste (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 months ago | (#47098517)

Some time before Carter it became about being a taxpayer funded cashcow instead of viable commercial projects. There has been no incentive to improve and a large incentive to prevent anything that makes the installed reactors look obsolete.

Re:what a waste (1)

delt0r (999393) | about 3 months ago | (#47099263)

No it wasn't. Its a lot more complicated and more difficult that plain PWR and BWR. Plain and simple. Also solid fuel designs keep the radiation much more localized which makes maintenance much cheaper. Thorium salt reactors are a very long way from ready or even so much as demonstrated. Sure there was a small one, that *didn't* breed, that *didn't* do the in situ processing, that was tiny and only *suggested* materials to fix the corrosion problems. It did not demonstrate any of that. On top of all that is was only 10MW.

Re:what a waste (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about 3 months ago | (#47098035)

If they can make the molten salt reactor (MSR) that Alvin Weinberg worked on in the 1960's work on a commercial scale, it could not only eliminate the depleted uranium-235 fuel rod waste disposal issue, it could also be used to get rid of the plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons, too. And there is a lot of leftover plutonium in both the USA and Russia due to the retirement of many nuclear weapons due to the START treaty.

Re:what a waste (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 3 months ago | (#47098701)

it could also be used to get rid of the plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons, too.

Hell, even a crappy Fukushima style BWR can burn plutonium, you don't need no fancy molten salt stuff for that.

Re:what a waste (1)

Chas (5144) | about 3 months ago | (#47100347)

Yeah, but a LFTR design can burn it SAFELY, and most of the byproducts have decayed to stability within a human lifetime.

Re:what a waste (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#47098591)

The economy runs on waste. If the government did things even moderately efficiently 90% of the population would need to be unemployed, which would cut into the the profits of everyone.

Re:what a waste (1)

delt0r (999393) | about 3 months ago | (#47099273)

I think you need a new tin foil hat, the current one you have is not working.

Who would have thought... (2)

cyn1c77 (928549) | about 3 months ago | (#47097411)

Who would have thought that it would be THAT hard to get rid of something composed of 95% Uranium?

Re:Who would have thought... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097597)

They tried shooting it at the Iraqis, but they ran out of enemy tanks and their own soldiers started dying from exposure...

Re:Who would have thought... (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47097971)

That was depleted uranium, not reactor waste. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

Stock up on clay cat liter and it'll be fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097419)

But make sure it's clay. None of this organic shot for nuke waste.

It worked in Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097481)

Just store it all in tanks and when they're full or leaking, dump it in the ocean. So much cheaper.

mod do3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097577)

else to bVe an and its long term Been the best, Parties, but here Fucking percent of on baby...don't being GAY NIIGERS. more gay than they [idge.net] Been sitting here

The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097681)

The price per kwh often doesn't include the two hundred years of leaking storage and cleanup. How long until we start including the TOTAL cost of using nuclear with all of the long tail of management and waste control that drags generations into the future? I'm not saying we stop nuclear, but we MUST count the total cost. Coal burns, pollutes, and then is done with. Hydro and solar are instant power, with no real long term cost aside from equipment. So why do we keep saying nuclear is cheaper when we aren't even willing to pay the required costs to bury it in Yucca, or in some other long-term accessible storage? Let's get real and realize that nuclear is a lot more expensive than the initial cost of production.

Re:The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of wa (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097833)

How long until we start including the TOTAL cost of using nuclear with all of the long tail of management and waste control that drags generations into the future?

We already have you stupid fuck.

So why do we keep saying nuclear is cheaper when we aren't even willing to pay the required costs to bury it in Yucca, or in some other long-term accessible storage?

We ARE willing to pay [wikipedia.org] you incredible asshole. We've been escrowing money to pay for it for decades.

The problem isn't money and never has been. The problem is you and the fuckwits you vote into office that make dealing with the waste impossible.

So shove your lectures and your Millennial ignorance up your ass.

Re:The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of wa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47098335)

Well said. GP is a complete and total MORON. Now go suck my nuts!

Re:The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of wa (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#47098461)

The $25bn put aside from nuclear waste storage is still only a fraction of the subsidy that nuclear has received. The free government backed insurance is literally priceless, as no commercial insurer would ever offer it.

Nice attitude, by the way. Raving and foaming at the mouth really adds credibility and weight to your well reasoned argument.

Re:The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of wa (2)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | about 3 months ago | (#47099071)

The $25bn put aside from nuclear waste storage is still only a fraction of the subsidy that nuclear has received. The free government backed insurance is literally priceless, as no commercial insurer would ever offer it.

So should we kill the airline industry as well? Limited liability is not exclusive to nuclear, nor has it been a burden in practice with reasonable limits. Rather than calling it priceless, why don't you be honest about what that "free government backed insurance" has cost to date. I believe the word for that you are looking for is "zero". It may not remain zero, but per unit of energy produced, and relative to the alternatives, it will continue to be extremely small. Subsidies for renewables and fossil fuels on that basis have a very real cost, and are quite high.

At any rate, insurance figures will be meaningless as long as regulatory limits on radiation are so absurdly far below safe limits. When nuclear plants can not even be permitted in many places due to perfectly benign background radiation levels exceeding said absurd limits, there is clearly a problem.

Nice attitude, by the way. Raving and foaming at the mouth really adds credibility and weight to your well reasoned argument.

Your comments empty of any constructive ideas are no better. Given the endless "raving and foaming at the mouth" of anti-nuclear ideologues, the colorful language is understandable and more easily forgiven.

Re:The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of wa (1)

stdarg (456557) | about 3 months ago | (#47099353)

The free government backed insurance is literally priceless, as no commercial insurer would ever offer it.

The meat of the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act is the indemnity, not the insurance subsidy. No commercial insurer can offer legal indemnity, that's why they aren't involved.

Considering nuclear plant operators are responsible for accidents that aren't even their fault (e.g. terrorist attack), it seems like a pretty fair compromise. And calling it a subsidy doesn't really make sense.. you have no dollar figure to compare it to, as you pointed out, so you have no idea how big the subsidy is. We'll have to wait until money is actually paid out by the government to call it a subsidy.

Re:The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of wa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47098601)

If we're talking about the TOTAL cost of using nuclear power, then we also need to take the cost of the inevitable accidents into account.

No matter how well we engineer our nuclear plants, breaches of the reactor core, meltdowns, and the escape of fission products is inevitable. (Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island almost). It would take too much hubris to believe that the human race, as a whole, is smart and careful enough to completely exclude the possibility of a meltdown (Perrow et al. Normal Accidents, 1984 -- note that this book was published before Fukushima OR Chernobyl).

Does this mean that we should give up on nuclear power? Absolutely not! A certain economic cost is incurred when the area around a reactor becomes inhabitable due to a meltdown/core breach. Through better engineering, we CAN minimize the health impacts of such a breach (Fukushima didn't catch on fire, Chernobyl did). The average coal power plant probably kills more people due to air pollution than Fukushima ever will. The full cost and benefits must be accounted for -- do the economic costs of fuel storage the occasional exclusion zone outweigh the incremental economic cost of global warming and human cost of lung cancer deaths?

Re:The real cost of nuclear is the long tail of wa (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 3 months ago | (#47099317)

No containment can contain a meltdown, if it wasn't built to do so. The BWR containments, as used in Fukushima Daiichi, just weren't, because it wasn't deemed necessary. Nureg/CR-6042 [nrc.gov] made it pretty clear that the focus back in the early 1960ies was on definitively preventing "catastrophic deaths". Preventing contamination just wasn't the goal. From the perspective they had, it was sufficient if meltdowns were unlikely. This has changed, but at least in the US and Japan, the power plants weren't changed to accomodate this.

And I'm not cherrypicking my sources. Any of the well known and often discussed reports like Wash-1400 [epri.com] or Nureg-1150 [nrc.gov] make it very clear that such BWR containments would overpressurize and leak soon after a meltdown due to hydrogen generation (hydrogen can't be condensed, unlike water steam), leading to widespread contamination after a meltdown. That's not merely a chance, but a certainty. (Whether a meltdown can be prevented is a different matter.) All three also clearly state that flooding and tsunamis (in Wash-1400 "tidal waves") are a potential cause for a meltdown, despite the redundancy of safety equipment, because they cause a full station blackout.

All this is quite different in other containments. Pressure water reactors typically have a large dry containment, that is capable of containing a meltdown, at the very least long enough for most contaminants to settle down in the containment and not outside of it. (Without power to run any pumps, it takes some 20 hours for 99% of the Cesium to settle down. With power, you can run containment sprays and do it in a bit more than half an hour. BWR Mark I/II containments generally don't have such sprays.) Newer BWR containments are also much larger and much more capable of containing a meltdown.

Other countries such as Sweden, France and Germany [oecd-nea.org] fitted filtered containment vents to their nuclear power plants in 1980(Sweden) and 1988 (Germany/France). Which would have prevented any significant fallout, because the containments wouldn't overpressurize.

Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47097791)

The answer is dry cask storage. The industry couldn't wait for hysterical libtards to bless some hole in the ground and solved the problem independently.

Our pathetic fucking government will be keeping, and keep collecting, the billions in long term waste fees they've been escrowing for decades though. You can bet on that.

Re:Whatever (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#47098465)

Better answer is recycling most of it into more fuel

Politics of Yucca (2, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47097965)

The link on the failure of Yucca Mountain misses the key issue: http://www.macalester.edu/acad... [macalester.edu] Scientists at USGS falsified Quality Assurance reports. Doing this meant that no confidence could be placed in the work. There was no way to know if Yucca was suitable and every reason to think it was not.

Re:Politics of Yucca (5, Interesting)

homey of my owney (975234) | about 3 months ago | (#47098353)

Well sure. It was an incredible find for the opponents, and an incredibly sloppy move on behalf of USGS. But the science was redone by Sandia Laboratories and it, not the prior science, was submitted to the NRC during the licensing process.

The POLITICS of Yucca was that Harry Reid did not want it, Obama had a Nobel prize winner (Chu) illegally cancel the project by pulling the license. The two had the NRC deliberately disobey a law, passed by Congress and signed by the prior President. A Federal court has so ruled that to be the case - http://www.world-nuclear-news.... [world-nuclear-news.org] .

But again, the POLITICS of Yucca, left a site and Congressional mandate unable to move because there is no funding.

Re:Politics of Yucca (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47098399)

I don't think you understand. Redoing one part was not enough. You have go back all the way to site selection to get a clean slate. That is what we are doing now.

Re:Politics of Yucca (1)

Grow Old Timber (1071718) | about 3 months ago | (#47099511)

Imagine Yucca mountain could be the next big Disney adventure (Glow in the dark PARK) Why the hurry fellas? Afraid the more we look at the problem and its mess, the worse it becomes? yeah If only we thought like you ...and NOT. think. we could make sure the only thing out there will be diesels and dust. Store it in your own state. Or better yet in your abandoned Mall parking lot. The next ice age we might be wanting a desert to live in. Nothing is permanent.

Re:Politics of Yucca (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 3 months ago | (#47098381)

Politics of administering the Brogans to the cylindrical metal container to further its advance down the pathway.

There is no political will for a highly unpopular project like nuclear waste disposal. Though it's clear leaving the spent fuel laying about is a disaster waiting to happen, they're not harming anything this election cycle so let's worry with that later.

I don't know if it works this way everywhere, but in the American school of political discipline, it's a given that troublesome legislative agendas are much easier to fulfill after an emergency. And no, Fukushima wasn't nearly close enough.

Re:Politics of Yucca (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47098475)

On partial solution would be to stop making more waste until we know what we are doing. Mothballing the nuclear power plants for a couple decades would make sense.

Re:Politics of Yucca (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47098557)

On partial solution would be to stop making more waste until we know what we are doing. Mothballing the nuclear power plants for a couple decades would make sense.

You better shut down all coal plants also then, cuz we also don't know what are doing with the tons of radioactive dust that came out from burning coal, except dumping them into the atmosphere. Nor do we know what we are doing with the toxic pollutants from coal mines, except letting them flow into, well, wherever water flows.

Re:Politics of Yucca (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 3 months ago | (#47098697)

You are quite mistaken. Natural uranium in coal ends up in the ash at a concentration no greater than low carbon soil. It does not add to background radiation since it is screened just as much as other natural sources. It is the unnatural isotopes in nuclear waste that cause problems.

Launch it into the sun. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47098403)

Done.

Read your links (1)

estitabarnak (654060) | about 3 months ago | (#47098859)

One of the first sentences on the nuclear reprocessing page linked reads "Nuclear reprocessing reduces the volume of high-level waste, but by itself does not reduce radioactivity or heat generation and therefore does not eliminate the need for a geological waste repository." Emphasis mine.

Of course reprocessing would be great, but it doesn't let us side-step the political bungling of the repository issue.

Re:Read your links (2)

delt0r (999393) | about 3 months ago | (#47099321)

The thing is that the volume reduction is about 65x. Quite a lot. In fact with correct on site processing and neutron spectrum control, and sub critialicaly in the right places. A 1GW plant needs a fairly small room to store all active waste for the required times. That is after about 100-200 years, the first stuff you put in there is now safe and can be taken out.

Such a nuclear plant however would be a major R & D project and there is nothing to say it would be cost effective.

PRISM, LFTR (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | about 3 months ago | (#47098985)

Consume spent fuel and waste, and turn it into power:

http://gehitachiprism.com/what... [gehitachiprism.com]

Though I think avoiding sodium (in a LFTR, for example) is a safer choice, given its behavior when wet..

Of course Yucca Mountain failed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47099567)

Monarch shouldn't have stored giant monster eggs there [wikia.com] in the first place!

Looks like we still have the same problem... (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#47100229)

Judging from the comments, it looks like we still don't have a solution to the problem of nuclear waste in spite of years of study and research.
It would probably be best to stop making more nuclear waste until we have a safe method of getting rid of it.

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