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What Does the U.S. Do with Nuclear Waste? (Irradiated Barf)
Scientific American "Earthtalk" ^ | 6/24/2008 | "Earthtalk"

Posted on 06/25/2008 12:28:05 PM PDT by angkor

EarthTalk - June 24, 2008 What Does the U.S. Do with Nuclear Waste? What are the future plans for U.S. nuclear waste storage?

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that there are plans to build a large repository for nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but that plans have been slow and are very controversial. Where is our nuclear waste kept now and what dangers does it pose? -- Miriam Clark, Reno, NV

Plans to store the majority of our nation’s spent nuclear fuel and other highly radioactive waste at a central repository underneath Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert 80 miles from Las Vegas were first hatched in the mid-1980s. But the project has languished primarily due to opposition from Nevadans who don’t want to import such dangerous materials into their backyard. Critics of the plan also point out that various natural forces such as erosion and earthquakes could render the site unstable and thus unsuitable to store nuclear isotopes that can remain hazardous to humans for hundreds of thousands of years to come.

But the Bush administration is keen to jump-start the project and recently submitted a construction license application to develop the facility—which when completed could hold up to 300 million pounds of nuclear waste—with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In announcing the filing, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said that the facility being proposed can “stand up to any challenge anywhere,” adding that issues of health safety have been a primary concern during the planning process.

But the administration has still not submitted a crucial document declaring how protective the facility will be with regard to radiation leakage. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the facility needs to prevent radiation leakage for up to 10,000 years. But a federal judge ruled that to be inadequate and ordered the administration to require protection for up to one million years. The White House argues that the NRC should press on with its review process and that the standard can be settled on later.

Currently, without any central repository, nuclear waste generated in the U.S. is stored at or near one of the 121 facilities across the country where it is generated. Nevadans like Democratic Senator Harry Reid, who has doggedly opposed the Yucca Mountain repository, say it makes more sense to leave such waste where it is than to risk transporting it across the nation’s public highways and rail system, during which accidents or even terrorist attacks could expose untold numbers of Americans to radioactivity.

But others say that the current system, or lack thereof, leaves Americans at great risk of radioactive exposure. The non-profit Nuclear Information and Resource Service concluded in a 2007 report that tons of radioactive waste were ending up in landfills and in some cases in consumer products, thanks to loopholes in a 2000 federal ban on recycling metal that had been exposed to radioactivity.

As with all issues surrounding nuclear technology, where and how to dispose of the wastes is complicated. While some environmental leaders now cautiously support development of more nuclear reactors (which are free of fossil fuels) to help stave off climate change, others remain concerned that the risks to human health and the environment are still too high to go down that road. Whether or not the NRC approves plans for Yucca Mountain won’t resolve the larger debate, of course, but perhaps the greenlighting of other promising alternative energy sources could ultimately make nuclear power unnecessary altogether.

CONTACTS: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, www.nrc.gov; Nuclear Information and Resource Service, www.nirs.org.

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/, or e-mail: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: nuclear; nukes
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1) Prior to building some 50 reactors, the French handily solved this problem by agreeing to use safe temporary storage until better disposal technologies are developed several years - or maybe even decades - in the future.

2) The idea that it's safer to have 121 disparate sites located everywhere around the country rather than a single "best choice" site for centralized containment is the kind of harebrained idea that could only come the from the U.S. Congress.

3) When were federal appeals judges granted Constitutional authority to make nuke projects safe for "1 million years" as opposed to "10,000 years"?

1 posted on 06/25/2008 12:28:08 PM PDT by angkor
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To: angkor

A small tupperware container in each and every refrigerator in the United States. Waaaaaayyy in the back, where no one ever looks.

Not my idea originally: I think it came from either Robin Williams, National Lampoon magazine or Saturday Night Live, I can’t really remember.


2 posted on 06/25/2008 12:32:05 PM PDT by WayneS (What the hell is wrong with these people?)
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To: WayneS

Every man’s sock drawer a U-232 disposal site.


3 posted on 06/25/2008 12:36:26 PM PDT by angkor (Conservatism is not now and never has been a religious movement.)
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To: angkor
What Does the U.S. Do with Nuclear Waste?

Dear Miriam,

What don't we do with it? We start off by using some as a binding agent for hemp clothing, birkenstock sandals, stupid hats and other such needs. We also use them for inks and various paper products for thinge like Protest Signs, Mother Jones, and Sierra Club type magazines. We use them in paints and office furniture for the same type offices. There's realy not enough column space to tell you all these possible uses, but be aware some 80% goes to places like Seattle, San Francisco, and Cambridge Mass.

regards,

Them

4 posted on 06/25/2008 12:38:25 PM PDT by theDentist (Qwerty ergo typo : I type, therefore I misspelll.)
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To: angkor

Well, if it weren’t for the Amy Carter nuclear energy policy, we’d be recycling the fuel rods, extracting the still usable fuel (and the plutonium), and storing a much smaller amount, like you said, until we can figure out a better disposal method.


5 posted on 06/25/2008 12:39:10 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: angkor

Mix the waste with sand until it is too dilute to go critical, then turn it into glass. The ecofreeks say that glass is forever.

Then it can be stored almost anywhere.


6 posted on 06/25/2008 12:39:43 PM PDT by CPOSharky (Blaming CO2 for global warming is like blaming your thermometer for your kid's fever.)
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To: angkor

We’ve been storing it in a number of ways for years, depending upon the level of radioactivity and materials involved..

I spent time working on around aboveground storage in steel casks/containers years ago.

A lot of testing went into both the storage and transportation of said casks with the anticipation of eventual movement of all those casks to a location such as Yucca Flats.

Personally, I have a perfect place for dems and greens to stick it until we finally get an OK to ‘plant’ it in terra firma.


7 posted on 06/25/2008 12:39:43 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... Godspeed ... ICE toll-free tip hotline 1-866-DHS-2-ICE ... 9/11 .. Never FoRget!!!)
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To: angkor

Launch it into space.


8 posted on 06/25/2008 12:40:00 PM PDT by PGR88
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To: angkor
In about 50-60 years, tops, we'll be able to feed this waste into fusion reactors, where it will be destroyed. Or just as likely, have nanobot machines take it apart, molecule by molecule, untils it's safe.

Or, humans will have eradicated themselves off the planet. In any case, we don't have to worry about this stuff for multiple thousands to millions of years.

9 posted on 06/25/2008 12:41:53 PM PDT by willgolfforfood
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To: angkor
I think it would improve the whole country if we stored it in New York city or Boston
10 posted on 06/25/2008 12:42:35 PM PDT by jrd
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To: angkor

Don’t forget that the French reprocess their spent fuel. As a result their high-level waste occupies a space the size of a basketball gym.

We don’t even need a giant underground repository in the first place. Its only an typically dumbass executive order for Jimmy Carter that forbade reprocessing.

Don’t expect dubya to work up the stones to rescind it, however. Nor the executive order that forbids offshore drilling (although there is a separate, congress-passed law as well).


11 posted on 06/25/2008 12:42:51 PM PDT by sinanju
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To: angkor
Miriam,

Ever see young kids and teens with those glow in the dark flexible rods at Raves, concerts, and evening events? What do you think makes them glow?

12 posted on 06/25/2008 12:43:52 PM PDT by Phantom Lord (Fall on to your knees for the Phantom Lord)
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To: jrd

It could revitalize Detroit.


13 posted on 06/25/2008 12:47:03 PM PDT by Westlander (Unleash the Neutron Bomb)
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To: MrB

>>>>we’d be recycling the fuel rods, extracting the still usable fuel (and the plutonium), and storing a much smaller amount, like you said, until we can figure out a better disposal method.

I believe that’s exactly how the French have handled it for 20++ years, with the very sensible understanding that “We’ll make the process safer as future technology permits.”

THE FRENCH, BY GOD!!!!!!!!

THE FRENCH WHO ARE USING 50+ REACTORS BUILT FOR THEM BY WESTINGHOUSE U.S.A. !!!!!


14 posted on 06/25/2008 12:48:45 PM PDT by angkor (Conservatism is not now and never has been a religious movement.)
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To: MrB

Absolutely. The Navy ships its used fuel rods to the desert of Idaho where it is recycled at the Expended Core Facility (at least that’s what it was called when I worked there in the late seventies) at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory operated then by Westinghouse Electric. I haven’t kept up with developments there and a lot of names might have changed but I think the cores still arrive by train.


15 posted on 06/25/2008 12:49:53 PM PDT by caseinpoint (Don't get thickly involved in thin things)
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To: angkor

“Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the facility needs to prevent radiation leakage for up to 10,000 years. But a federal judge ruled that to be inadequate and ordered the administration to require protection for up to one million years.”

ok 10,000 years is silly but 1,000,000 years? Where the heck does a judge get the authority to set this arbitrary time line?


16 posted on 06/25/2008 12:50:03 PM PDT by driftdiver
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To: angkor

Something like that, yes.


17 posted on 06/25/2008 12:53:07 PM PDT by WayneS (What the hell is wrong with these people?)
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To: Phantom Lord

LOL...Cerenkov Radiation on a moonbat.


18 posted on 06/25/2008 12:53:52 PM PDT by Ouderkirk (DemocRATS....the party of Slavery, Segregation, Secularism, and Sedition)
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To: jrd

The Capitol building.

It could lead to term limits.


19 posted on 06/25/2008 12:54:42 PM PDT by WayneS (What the hell is wrong with these people?)
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To: CPOSharky

That is exactly how its stored in a glass matrix. Bravo! The process is a little convoluted but once in the matrix there is really no way the waste can ever be separated from it to be effective for anything.


20 posted on 06/25/2008 12:55:13 PM PDT by SouthernBoyupNorth ("For my wings are made of Tungsten, my flesh of glass and steel..........")
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