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PostPosted: Mar 04, 2009 11:39 pm 
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The Congressional Research Service just published a well-researched review of historical and current U.S. nuclear waste policy issues (attached). It's worth reading, if one is interested in the topic.

What is abundantly clear is that the current U.S. policy for managing nuclear waste is broken. But fixing it will require finding a comprehensive set of solutions that can address the needs of the 39 states that today host the storage of spent fuel and high level wastes, and thus that Congress could reasonably pass as a major amendment to the current Nuclear Waste Policy Act. If the effort to to find a workable, comprehensive solution to amend the NWPA proves to be impossible, then unfortunately the default policy will remain the law--license and construct a large repository at Yucca Mountain and fill it with spent nuclear fuel as rapidly as possible.

-Per


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PostPosted: Mar 05, 2009 12:31 am 
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Yucca Mountain Is Dead. Now What?

Quote:
But if not Yucca, where should the permanent burial site for the nation's nuclear waste go? MacFarlane lists three criteria for any permanent repository site: It should be located in an area that's not tectonically active; it should offer a non-oxidizing environment underground so that the storage vessels won't corrode; and it should be part of a closed hydrological system, so that any water that may get contaminated by the nuclear waste doesn't flow to faraway locations. MacFarlane notes that there are plenty of places in the United States that meet all three requirements. Yucca Mountain, for its part, actually meets only one of the three—being located in a closed hydrological basin. And even if it is situated in a closed basin, there are still people who drink the basin's groundwater. In other words, Yucca was a long way from being an ideal repository site. Perhaps there's not much of a reason to mourn its passing.


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PostPosted: Mar 05, 2009 5:40 pm 
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Per Peterson wrote:
All advanced fuel cycles will produce some waste streams that will require geologic disposal, because it's not physically possible (nor economically justified) to provide perfect separation of transuranics from waste streams (both fission products and worn-out equipment)

The ideal media for disposal of these types of materials, which clearly have no potential future economic value, is in salt. The U.S. has a deep salt repository operating today in southern New Mexico, and there is sufficient room nearby to support a second repository that could be designed to manage civilian wastes.


Do you really believe we absolutely need a deep underground geological site for nuclear waste?
I mean, according to many figures here in this forum discussed, a typical LFTR core fueled by LWR transuranics (or a mix of LEU and TRU) produces something like only 60-80 gram per GWyear. Does it make sense to build a geological site only for such low mass of transuranics waste, instead a well safeguared, easier and quicker to build and operate, surface waste site ?


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PostPosted: Mar 05, 2009 6:25 pm 
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Don't forget the somewhat less than 1 tonne of fission products that the 80 grams TRUs are disbursed into.
If we could isolate the TRUs from the fission products we would be able to put the TRUs into the reactor and consume them.
In addition to the TRU's there some medium life fission products that need care for 200-300 years.
In addition there are a few long lived fission products.
These long-life fission products may or may not pose a real public health risk - it appears to be debatable but my preference would be to put them into a geological site eventually.
But if we get things down to 1 tonne and we use surface storage to let them cool for 100 years or so then one repository ought to serve for all high level wastes from nuclear power plants.


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PostPosted: Mar 06, 2009 12:24 am 
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Argh... this news coverage is aggravatingly stupid. :x

NYT article - zero mention of reprocessing, closed cycles or fast reactors:

Future Dim for Nuclear Waste Repository
Quote:
The decision could cost the federal government additional billions in payments to the utility industry, and if it holds up, it would mean that most of the $10.4 billion spent since 1983 to find a place to put nuclear waste was wasted.

A final decision to abandon the repository would leave the nation with no solution to a problem it has struggled with for half a century.

WaPo casually dismisses it in one sentence:

Controversy Over Yucca Mountain May Be Ending
Quote:
Others have advocated reprocessing much of the spent fuel, as is being done in France, but this too is fraught with problems, according to some experts.

Ultimately, [NRDC lawyer] Fettus said, the government will have to find a new site or sites for permanent storage of nuclear waste.


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PostPosted: Mar 06, 2009 3:18 pm 
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Lars wrote:
Don't forget the somewhat less than 1 tonne of fission products that the 80 grams TRUs are disbursed into.
If we could isolate the TRUs from the fission products we would be able to put the TRUs into the reactor and consume them.
In addition to the TRU's there some medium life fission products that need care for 200-300 years.
In addition there are a few long lived fission products.
These long-life fission products may or may not pose a real public health risk - it appears to be debatable but my preference would be to put them into a geological site eventually.
But if we get things down to 1 tonne and we use surface storage to let them cool for 100 years or so then one repository ought to serve for all high level wastes from nuclear power plants.


Honestly, but I'm not an expert, I don't understand why an underground geological repository for such low quantity of transuranic and/or fissions products waste (low, medium or long lived) could be per se safer than an on surface one


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PostPosted: Mar 08, 2009 3:40 pm 
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Washington Post Editorial: Mountain of Trouble

Quote:
BY STRIPPING the funding for the nuclear repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, President Obama has succeeded in killing the contentious project that remains unfinished 22 years after Congress selected the site. He compounds the error by not offering an alternative. If the president's vision for a clean energy future is to be believed or is to come to fruition, nuclear energy must be a part of the mix, and the safe disposal of its radioactive waste must be given more serious consideration.


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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2009 8:14 pm 
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Ah, the inevitable storm of unintended consequences...

States threatening to halt payments if U.S. cancels Yucca Mountain

Quote:
But at least four states are trying now to take matters into their own hands.

Maine lawmakers passed a resolution yesterday asking the federal government to immediately reduce fees paid by electricity customers for managing spent nuclear fuel. The resolution also urges the expedited establishment of two federally licensed interim storage facilities that would take possession of the waste and create an independent panel to assess the long-term prospects for handling military and civilian nuclear wastes.

Since 1982, U.S. nuclear-power ratepayers have paid a tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour into a federal fund that now holds about $30 billion. The fund can be used only to build the repository.


Too bad some of the funding couldn't be used to get rid of the problem that necessitates the repository...


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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2009 9:17 pm 
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amend the original law to fund a nuclear incinerator.
from TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 108 > SUBCHAPTER III > § 10222 Nuclear Waste Fund
Quote:
(d) Use of Waste Fund
The Secretary may make expenditures from the Waste Fund, subject to subsection (e) of this section, only for purposes of radioactive waste disposal activities under subchapters I and II of this chapter, including—
(1) the identification, development, licensing, construction, operation, decommissioning, and post-decommissioning maintenance and monitoring of any repository, monitored,[2] retrievable storage facility [3] or test and evaluation facility constructed under this chapter;
(2) the conducting of nongeneric research, development, and demonstration activities under this chapter;
(3) the administrative cost of the radioactive waste disposal program;
(4) any costs that may be incurred by the Secretary in connection with the transportation, treating, or packaging of spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste to be disposed of in a repository, to be stored in a monitored,[2] retrievable storage site [3] or to be used in a test and evaluation facility;
(5) the costs associated with acquisition, design, modification, replacement, operation, and construction of facilities at a repository site, a monitored,[2] retrievable storage site [3] or a test and evaluation facility site and necessary or incident to such repository, monitored,[2] retrievable storage facility [3] or test and evaluation facility; and
(6) the provision of assistance to States, units of general local government, and Indian tribes under sections 10136, 10138, and 10199 of this title.
No amount may be expended by the Secretary under this subchapter [4] for the construction or expansion of any facility unless such construction or expansion is expressly authorized by this or subsequent legislation. The Secretary hereby is authorized to construct one repository and one test and evaluation facility.


The title 42 ch108 definitions are very confined to disposal sites:
Quote:
(9) The term “disposal” means the emplacement in a repository of high-level radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel, or other highly radioactive material with no foreseeable intent of recovery, whether or not such emplacement permits the recovery of such waste.


There's a little wiggle room for the DOE but not much. Even with waste volume, activation, and radioactive halflife reductions, permanent disposal is a requirement. Maybe one of the resources the upcoming blue-ribbon panel can look towards is this fund. If a reduction in the funds needed for a disposal site can be established by the construction of a nuclear incinerator, the law can be changed to redirect the funding from the disposal fund to the AFCI where LFTR should be funded.


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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2009 9:32 pm 
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"(4) any costs that may be incurred by the Secretary in connection with the ..., treating, ... spent nuclear fuel ... to be disposed of in a repository"

I would think that separating out the actinides from the fission products from the uranium would qualify as "treating spent nuclear fuel".


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PostPosted: Apr 09, 2009 7:31 am 
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Tobin wrote:
the law can be changed to redirect the funding from the disposal fund to the AFCI where LFTR should be funded.

While I'm sure that laws can be changed, right now I think that utilities are more keen on suing the government to get their money back, since they didn't get anything in return for it.

I suspect that any SNF law change would have to be negotiated with the industry, because its their money.
"The construction of a nuclear incinerator" wouldn't solve their problem: they would be more interested in spending money to build dry SNF storage facilities, so that thay can empty their SNF pools, and not worry about having to shut down due to lack of storage space (which BTW is one antinuke tactic, to get nuke plants shut down).

Beyond that, the fund contributors would probably want the government to provide additional financing, for any R&D work on SNF reprocessing plants and incinerator reactors, and ensure that a permanent waste repository would also be budgeted.


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PostPosted: Apr 09, 2009 8:06 am 
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Alex P wrote:
Honestly, but I'm not an expert, I don't understand why an underground geological repository for such low quantity of transuranic and/or fissions products waste (low, medium or long lived) could be per se safer than an on surface one


Reason 1: Absolute shielding. The distance between any man and the waste is guaranteed to be sufficiently not to obtain a harmful dose. You assume that in a normal surface or near surface depository the area won't be used as a residential neighborhood for the depository lifetime, something you can't assume taking into account the probable rise of population during the repository lifetime. For this reason only certain types of low level waste are allowed by the IAEA to be disposed near surface (Class-A waste).

Reason 2: some long lived fission products may agglomerate at the end of the surface disposal life time, in which an accident could spread a significant amount. These FP have pathways to the humans and can agglomerate in humans. very low quantities (which are allowed in Class-A waste) aren't harmful then, but large quantities as could be present in fission waste are certainly. In the case of a geologic depository accident, you still have your geological layer that can hinder transport to the society.

There are more reasons of course, but MA out of a repository is (to say the least) highly recommended.

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PostPosted: Apr 09, 2009 2:30 pm 
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Consistent with my theory that Steve Fetter will form the root and branch of the Obama new nuclear policy, here is a description of the new waste reduction plan. This plan highlights a advance burner rector.

PS : Steve Fetter believes in burner reactors and not breeders to minimize proliferation danger.

Reprocessing Spent Fuel

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PostPosted: Apr 09, 2009 3:39 pm 
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burner - breeder are essentially the same technology....

though a waste reduction plan is a good thing, what about a real waste disposal plan?

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PostPosted: Apr 09, 2009 6:04 pm 
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Interesting proposal. It seems to me that that there are major difficulties solved by having a liquid fuel. The PDF showed the fuel cycle with an added low level waste depo, additional fuel fabrication which will have to be hot cell. Making fuel assemblies from the separated SNF is going to be a lot tougher than tearing the LWR fuel assemblies apart, right? Then additional hot cell fuel cutdown has to be done when it comes out of the burner reactor. Having a liquid fuel burner reactor is a huge simplification of the fuel cycle and a significant reduction in siting needs.

Isn't siting one of the major roadblocks in getting things built in the first place? Wasn't siting what really killed Yucca? Isn't the term requirements due to high actinides what forces extreme difficulties for the disposal site?

Does this look right?


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