Friday, November 15, 2013

too hot to touch the problem of high-level nuclear waste

energyskeptic | After Yucca Mountain was thrown out as a nuclear waste site in 2009 after 25 years and $10 billion in studies — to help Senator Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) get re-elected in 2010 — there is nowhere to put nuclear waste.  Not much, if anything, is being done to find a new place, and there’s no chance an ideologically divided Congress would agree on a new site anyhow.

Meanwhile, 70,000 tons of spent nuclear reactor fuel and 20,000 giant canisters of defense-related high-level radioactive waste is sitting at 121 sites across 39 states, with another 70,000 tons on the way before nuclear power plants reach their end of life.  All of this waste is now, and for millions of years, exposing future generations and is vulnerable to terrorists, tsunamis, floods, rising sea levels, hurricanes, electric grid outages, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other disasters.

Spent fuel pools in America at 104 nuclear power plants, have an average of 10 times more radioactive fuel stored than what was at Fukushima, and almost no safety features such as a backup water-circulation systems and generators.

About 75% of spent fuel in America is being stored in pools, many of them so full they have four times the amount they were designed to hold.

The National Academy of Sciences published a report that stated terrorists could drain the water from spent fuel storage, causing the fuel rods to self-ignite and release large quantities of radioactivity, or they could steal nuclear waste to make a (dirty) bomb.

Not making a choice about where to store nuclear waste is a choice. We will expose future generations to millions of years of toxic radioactive wastes if we don’t clean them up now.
This book has a complete history of nuclear waste and what to do with it, the many issues, how we arrived at doing nothing, and has outstanding explanations of difficult topics across many fields (i.e. nuclear science, geology, hydrology, etc), as well as explaining the even more difficult political and human issues preventing us from disposing of nuclear wastes in a permanent geological repository.
The goal of anti-nuclear opponents has been to prevent a nuclear waste site from happening so that no new nuclear power plants would be built. Many states, such as California, have laws against building new nuclear plants until a waste depository exists.

The thing is, activists never needed to fear new reactors because the upfront costs are so high and the payback so delayed along with such high, uninsurable liabilities, that investors and utilities haven’t wanted to build nuclear power plants for decades.  Also, Uranium reserves are so low there’s only enough left to power existing nuclear plants for a few more decades (Tverberg), and perhaps less than that once the energy crisis hits and the energy to mine and crush millions of tons of ore is used for other purposes.

The only way new plants would ever get built is for the government to build them.  Not going to happen.  America has trillions in debt, hundreds of trillions of unfunded liabilities in the future (i.e. Medicare and other programs), the overall economic system is $600 trillion in debt, and the entire economic system is rotten and corrupt to the core with no reform in sight (see my amazon Fraud & Greed:  Wall Street, Banks, & Insurance book list  for details).  The final nail in the coffin is Fukushima — even if the government decided to nuclear power plants, public opposition would be too high.  Not to mention the most dysfunctional Congress in history.

Within the next few years (Hirsch), we will be on the exponentially declining oil curve of Hubbert’s Peak, and it will be too late to move the waste because our priorities will be rationing oil to agriculture to grow, harvest and distribute food, repair essential infrastructure, home heating and cooling, and emergency services.

Once the energy crisis hits, even if new nuclear plants are begun, which is not a given, since the crisis is oil — electricity doesn’t solve anything — building would probably stop because within the next ten years there are very good odds of another nuclear disaster: our plants are old and falling apart.
It’s really bad, much worse than most people realize. I highly recommend the 128 page report by Hirsch called “Nuclear Reactor Hazards Ongoing Dangers of Operating Nuclear Technology in the 21st Century”, or my summary of this paper at energyskeptic “Summary of Greenpeace Nuclear Reactor Hazards”.


BigDonOne said...

Not much unusual about that pic...lot of Russian cities/buildings look similar to that...even Detroilet for that matter...

ken said...

The specific area studied was in the Pacific near Indonesia, chosen because that's a typical sample of Pacific Ocean water.

That's an interesting choice to take typical samples of the ocean.