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 Post subject: Yucca Mountain
PostPosted: Jan 16, 2008 11:17 am 
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Symbolically, a door closes for nuclear dump at Yucca

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Washington — This may speak volumes about the status of the beleaguered Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project: A chain-link fence now blocks the entrance to the tunnel that leads inside. The Energy Department’s contractor says daily operations at the nation’s planned nuclear waste repository are being put “on standby” in the face of massive budget cuts engineered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. All on-site jobs, save for a few sentries’, are being eliminated. More layoffs are on the way. Resources are being shifted at a critical juncture in the project’s life. As Nevadans constantly seek signs that Yucca Mountain is really dead, is a 6-foot barrier blocking entry to the tunnel the tocsin?

“It’s clear the dump is dying,” said Reid spokesman Jon Summers. “This is one of the most significant moves we’ve seen to signal the end of the dump. They closed the tunnel ... That’s all there is, is that tunnel.”

Yes and no. Psychologically, shutting down the site feels like an omen. It’s even worse than last spring, when the train that once carried visitors deep into Yucca Mountain’s back alcoves stopped running. Closing up the tunnel seems like the beginning of the end. The project is certainly at a crossroads. Its currently proposed opening date is 20 years behind schedule and even Yucca Mountain’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill are losing patience. Yet at the same time, the Energy Department soldiers on. It has pledged to hit a June deadline to submit its application to license the facility. Much is riding on that promise it blew the deadline four years ago. Project advocates say the layoffs should come as no surprise after the financial hit, and they say the cuts don’t matter. Most of the on-site research work is done, and the tunnel is merely a PR tool until it is put to use as a tomb for the waste. The real work now, Yucca’s advocates say, is being done by the scientists and lawyers behind computers at offices in Las Vegas and elsewhere as they work toward the June deadline. John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the leading trade group for the industry, said, “Nothing indicates it’s a setback for the project.”

So again, if a gate over the entrance doesn’t do it, when will we know that Yucca Mountain is dead?Last year, one of the answers to that question was that the project’s demise would be evident if it were delivered a serious financial blow. Check. That happened in December when Congress cut $100 million from Yucca Mountain, slicing more than 20 percent off the project’s budget. Fallout from the budget cut is being felt. In addition to the 63 layoffs by month’s end, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been forced to cancel a public meeting this month in Las Vegas as it reduces its travel budget. A part of the commission budget that funds Yucca Mountain was similarly reduced by Reid’s maneuver. Next week the Energy Department’s project director, Edward Sproat, will, at various public functions in Nevada, address the project’s future in the face of steep budget cuts. Another indictor would be if President Bush failed to fully fund the project as he releases his 2009 priorities during the State of the Union speech this month or in the budget proposal in February. But probably the greatest test of Yucca’s livelihood is happening right outside your door, where the Democratic presidential candidates who are stumping for support in the Nevada caucus say they oppose the project and some have pledged to kill it outright. Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley said even though shuttering the tunnel is an acknowledgement by the Energy Department that the project is suffering, it’s too early to write Yucca’s obituary.

“We’ve got a long way to go before Yucca Mountain is pronounced dead,” Berkley said. “It’s going to take the next president of the United States to pull the plug on this project.”

Despite outward support for Yucca Mountain, even the nuclear industry has begun to move on from the plan, now decades in the making, to bury the nuclear fuel from the nation’s power plants in the Nevada desert. Some industry executives think waste can be stored at the plants for up to 100 years, a plan the Nevada delegation has advocated. The industry is moving forward to develop new nuclear reactors to meet the nation’s growing energy needs despite setbacks at Yucca. A spokesman for Nevada Republican Rep. Jon Porter, who is in France surveying nuclear reprocessing options, said the end is near.

“Yucca Mountain is in trouble, not just because of reduced funding,” spokesman Matt Leffingwell said, “but because there continues to be a lack of confidence in this project.”


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2008 10:35 am 
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Las Vegas Review-Journal: Demise of Yucca project predicted

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President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid have had several discussions about the Yucca Mountain Project since the election, with Reid saying this week the nuclear waste burial plan will "bleed real hard" before being halted.


It's not hard to have seen this coming. With Obama coming out strongly against Yucca during the election, in an attempt court Nevada votes, it's going to be hard to turn around and support it once in office. But coming from Illinois, with more nuclear plants than anywhere else, one has to ask what Obama plans to do with the spent fuel?

In James Hansen's recent paper he strongly suggested using the monies from the Nuclear Waste Fund to develop fast and thorium reactors instead:

Quote:
The Obama campaign, properly in my opinion, opposed the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository. Indeed, there is a far more effective way to use the $25 billion collected from utilities over the past 40 years to deal with waste disposal. This fund should be used to develop fast reactors that eat nuclear waste and thorium reactors to prevent the creation of new long-lived nuclear waste. By law the federal government must take responsibility for existing spent nuclear fuel, so inaction is not an option. Accelerated development of fast and thorium reactors will allow the US to fulfill its obligations to dispose of the nuclear waste, and open up a source of carbon-free energy that can last centuries, even millennia.


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2008 11:06 am 
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If you look at the way Mr Obama has run his campaign, and how heavily he is addicted to the internet, I find it hard to believe that he is unaware of the possibilities of fast & thorium reactors. He already knows "the whole truth" in my opinion.

On top of that, he comes from Chicago, on the outskirts of which is located the Argonne National Lab (not the lab that you support, but his ear could have already heard some stories from there). It is highly likely that Obama will press for prototyping and development of IFR and LFTR. With all the noise being made on the web, particularly from influential people like Dr Hansen, it will be impossible for him to not notice.

If Obama decides to not fund these reactors, then it is a decision brought out of careful contemplation, due to various conflicting reasons (funding from fossil-fuel lobby perhaps). We will have to wait and see - the next 2 years will let us know.


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2008 12:17 pm 
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vakibs, I'd like to think Obama knows as much about fast and thorium reactors as you suppose, but I just don't. I think the decision to oppose Yucca Mountain was basically politically motivated. I don't think Obama's group has a backup plan, just like Clinton didn't.


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2008 12:21 pm 
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But coming from Illinois, with more nuclear plants than anywhere else, one has to ask what Obama plans to do with the spent fuel?

One might well imagine onsite dry cask storage would be a viable option for several centuries, rather than some paranoid bury the one ring under mount doom nonsense.
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In James Hansen's recent paper he strongly suggested using the monies from the Nuclear Waste Fund to develop fast and thorium reactors instead:

Hopefully he'll read it.


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2008 12:38 pm 
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dezakin wrote:
One might well imagine onsite dry cask storage would be a viable option for several centuries, rather than some paranoid bury the one ring under mount doom nonsense.

I agree--dry casking is the way to go for decades until/if the decision is made to reprocess. The federal government should set up an interim repository, take possession of the dry-casked spent fuel, and take it there.


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2008 2:00 pm 
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Deseret News: Bennett says U.S. needs to get serious about nuclear power

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"We walked through a room that was filled with all those rods. It was kind of a symbolic thing to show how safe it is. They don't have it stored in Yucca Mountain. They have it stored in a room in the plant," Bennett said. "They have a very, very different attitude, obviously, in France about all of this."


Also, the article states that Bennett is up for becoming the ranking Republican on the Energy Committee.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2008 2:43 am 
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With spent fuel in some countries having grown to problem levels, it is time to go to a closed cycle, even if requires reversing a previous decision. Reprocessing and reuse in a U-Pu fast reactor is the best solution for least spent fuel volume. Maybe it is time for molten Chloride reactors? You could grow 233U in blanket for LFTR.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2008 7:14 am 
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jagdish wrote:
With spent fuel in some countries having grown to problem levels, it is time to go to a closed cycle, even if requires reversing a previous decision. Reprocessing and reuse in a U-Pu fast reactor is the best solution for least spent fuel volume. Maybe it is time for molten Chloride reactors? You could grow 233U in blanket for LFTR.

Every time you make statements like these, you sound either ignorant or deliberately deceptive. Liquid chloride reactors can reduce total waste, but the notion that 30 tonnes per GW/year of spent fuel is a significant problem requiring an immediate decision just doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Waste management is a primarily political goal where the primary problem in the US is that the federal government has been taxing the industry for decades for a promised service they never (and likely never will) deliver. If the utilities were allowed to make the decision themselves, they would do dry cask storage at negligible cost.

There are political advantages to burning spent fuel in liquid chloride reactors in that nuclear waste is as far as the public is concerned an entirely malignant evil that should be destroyed at any opportunity, rather than simply managed. But dont for a second think that its a necessary step to incinerate spent fuel rather than simply storing it. It just sits there. Given the expense of reprocessing light water oxide fuels with the past five decades worth of experience, I'm not the least bit confident that its worth the effort unless you're sending a political message. Its probably much cheaper to just buy all the advertising space during several superbowls to get the message across.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2008 2:51 pm 
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We can profittably use that spent fuel to get us going. Extracting the Np and Pu from the spent fuel really does not sound that hard (I'm at a loss to explain why the PUREX process is still in use so it is possible I just don't understand but the fluorination process described by ORNL seemed reasonable and it seems like with a few cycles we could get to pretty low residuals. This does not deal with Am and Cm but their levels aren't very high in LWR spent fuel. Dry cask storage first means all that nice Pu241 goes away and becomes the much less attractive AM241.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2008 9:33 pm 
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Lars wrote:
We can profittably use that spent fuel to get us going. Extracting the Np and Pu from the spent fuel really does not sound that hard (I'm at a loss to explain why the PUREX process is still in use so it is possible I just don't understand but the fluorination process described by ORNL seemed reasonable and it seems like with a few cycles we could get to pretty low residuals.

None of these processes is particularly inexpensive, because you have to deal with very hot fuel, criticality risks, licensing, and so on. The price of uranium would have to be over ten times higher for it to approach break-even for LWRs. Reprocessing in a fluid fuel reactor is an achievable goal because you dont have to do all the expensive crap in between and the fuel is all ready for processing.
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This does not deal with Am and Cm but their levels aren't very high in LWR spent fuel. Dry cask storage first means all that nice Pu241 goes away and becomes the much less attractive AM241.

This is about as attractive as utilizing spent fuel for waste heat: You are going to see a far bigger return investing in just about anything else. Utilizing every ounce of spent fuel is a deceptively seductive meme that only serves to increase the price of nuclear power.

If you need more fuel its far more economic to mine it.


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PostPosted: Nov 27, 2008 12:26 am 
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I need to be able to sell a reluctant public. If extracting the Np, and Pu isn't too hard and isn't considered a proliferation risk then this is (by my perception) a strong selling point to the public. We've had 40 years to argue that the waste isn't a big problem and so far as I can tell the government answer is put it in Yucca at a pretty hefty price.


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PostPosted: Nov 27, 2008 2:23 am 
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Lars wrote:
I need to be able to sell a reluctant public. If extracting the Np, and Pu isn't too hard and isn't considered a proliferation risk then this is (by my perception) a strong selling point to the public. We've had 40 years to argue that the waste isn't a big problem and so far as I can tell the government answer is put it in Yucca at a pretty hefty price.

The problem is the government solution. If there wasn't a solution, there wouldn't even be a perception of a problem. Not that the public even bothers to think about spent fuel more often than any other of 100 issues that are even more innocuous.


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PostPosted: Nov 27, 2008 10:33 am 
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In California there was a vote by the public to forbid building any new nuclear plants until the waste problem was solved. This wasn't a vote by the politicians - it was a direct vote by the people. That law stands today 40 years later and it still blocks getting new plants built.


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PostPosted: Nov 27, 2008 1:05 pm 
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Lars wrote:
In California there was a vote by the public to forbid building any new nuclear plants until the waste problem was solved. This wasn't a vote by the politicians - it was a direct vote by the people. That law stands today 40 years later and it still blocks getting new plants built.


You have no idea what you are talking about.

That law was enacted by the CA legislature in 1976. The people had little to no say about it. A group of liberal democratic politicians paid back some anti-nuclear donors. End of story.

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25524.1. (a) Except for the existing Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2 owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and San Onofre Units 2 and 3 owned by Southern California Edison Company and San Diego Gas and Electric Company, no nuclear fission thermal powerplant requiring the reprocessing of fuel rods, including any to which this chapter does not otherwise apply, excepting any having a vested right as defined in this section, shall be permitted land use in the state or, where applicable, certified by the commission until both of the following conditions are met:

(1) The commission finds that the United States through its authorized agency has identified and approved, and there exists a technology for the construction and operation of, nuclear fuel rod reprocessing plants.

(2) The commission has reported its findings and the reasons therefor pursuant to paragraph (1) to the Legislature. That report shall be assigned to the appropriate policy committees for review. The commission may proceed to certify nuclear fission thermal powerplants 100 legislative days after reporting its findings unless within those 100 legislative days either house of the Legislature adopts by a majority vote of its members a resolution disaffirming the findings of the commission made pursuant to paragraph (1).

(3) A resolution of disaffirmance shall set forth the reasons for the action and shall provide, to the extent possible, guidance to the commission as to an appropriate method of bringing the commission's findings into conformance with paragraph (1).

(4) If a disaffirming resolution is adopted, the commission shall reexamine its original findings consistent with matters raised in the resolution. On conclusion of its reexamination, the commission shall transmit its findings in writing, with the reasons therefor, to the Legislature.

(5) If the findings are that the conditions of paragraph (1) have been met, the commission may proceed to certify nuclear fission thermal powerplants 100 legislative days after reporting its findings to the Legislature unless within those 100 legislative days both houses of the Legislature act by statute to declare the findings null and void and takes appropriate action.

(6) To allow sufficient time for the Legislature to act, the reports of findings of the commission shall be submitted to the Legislature at least six calendar months prior to the adjournment of the Legislature sine die.

(b) The commission shall further find on a case-by-case basis that facilities with adequate capacity to reprocess nuclear fuel rods from a certified nuclear facility or to store that fuel if that storage is approved by an authorized agency of the United States are in actual operation or will be in operation at the time that the nuclear facility requires reprocessing or storage; provided, however, that the storage of fuel is in an offsite location to the extent necessary to provide continuous onsite full core reserve storage capacity.

(c) The commission shall continue to receive and process notices of intention and applications for certification pursuant to this division, but shall not issue a decision pursuant to Section 25523 granting a certificate until the requirements of this section have been met. All other permits, licenses, approvals, or authorizations for the entry or use of the land, including orders of court, which may be required may be processed and granted by the governmental entity concerned, but construction work to install permanent equipment or structures shall not commence until the requirements of this section have been met.

25524.2. Except for the existing Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2 owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and San Onofre Units 2 and 3 owned by Southern California Edison Company and San Diego Gas and Electric Company, no nuclear fission thermal powerplant, including any to which this chapter does not otherwise apply, but excepting those exempted herein, shall be permitted land use in the state, or where applicable, be certified by the commission until both of the following conditions have been met:

(a) The commission finds that there has been developed and that the United States through its authorized agency has approved and there exists a demonstrated technology or means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste.

(b) (1) The commission has reported its findings and the reasons therefor pursuant to paragraph (a) to the Legislature. That report shall be assigned to the appropriate policy committees for review. The commission may proceed to certify nuclear fission thermal powerplants 100 legislative days after reporting its findings unless within those 100 legislative days either house of the Legislature adopts by a majority vote of its members a resolution disaffirming the findings of the commission made pursuant to subdivision (a).

(2) A resolution of disaffirmance shall set forth the reasons for the action and shall provide, to the extent possible, guidance to the commission as to an appropriate method of bringing the commission's findings into conformance with subdivision (a).

(3) If a disaffirming resolution is adopted, the commission shall reexamine its original findings consistent with matters raised in the resolution. On conclusion of its reexamination, the commission shall transmit its findings in writing, with the reasons therefor, to the Legislature.

(4) If the findings are that the conditions of subdivision (a) have been met, the commission may proceed to certify nuclear fission thermal powerplants 100 legislative days after reporting its findings to the Legislature unless within those 100 legislative days both houses of the Legislature act by statute to declare the findings null and void and take appropriate action.

(5) To allow sufficient time for the Legislature to act, the reports of findings of the commission shall be submitted to the Legislature at least six calendar months prior to the adjournment of the Legislature sine die.

(c) As used in subdivision (a), "technology or means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste" means a method for the permanent and terminal disposition of high-level nuclear waste. Nothing in this section requires that facilities for the application of that technology or means be available at the time that the commission makes its findings. That disposition of high-level nuclear waste does not preclude the possibility of an approved process for retrieval of the waste.

(d) The commission shall continue to receive and process notices of intention and applications for certification pursuant to this division but shall not issue a decision pursuant to Section 25523 granting a certificate until the requirements of this section have been met. All other permits, licenses, approvals, or authorizations for the entry or use of the land, including orders of court, which may be required may be processed and granted by the governmental entity concerned, but construction work to install permanent equipment or structures shall not commence until the requirements of this section have been met.


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