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The economics of nuclear electricity generation are skewed because the costs of doing something acceptably safe with spent fuel simply aren't taken into account.

On-site storage in the US is practically saturated; no long-term storage is in place. In France, fuel is reprocessed, which is expensive, but enables rational handling; but again, no long-term storage for the residues is in place.

Spent fuel management in Japan was a disaster waiting to happen; and presumably still is, with respect to all the other plants.

One shudders to think how the Russians handle the question. By tossing it down deep holes, one imagines. A cost/benefit analysis of this approach ought to be interesting, but will never be allowed.

How is it possible to build new nuclear plants without budgeting the fuel-cycle costs? How does the UK approach this question for their projected new build?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Aug 5th, 2013 at 04:58:41 AM EST
Well we've just had a consultation on "Waste transfer pricing" there may be something useful in there.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/42622/984-consultation-was te-transfer-pricing-method.pdf

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Aug 5th, 2013 at 05:49:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
''This attachment is being virus checked.

We are currently holding this attachment in quarantine until it has been virus checked. The attachment will be available at the original location shortly.''

WTF, a PDF virus?

Nice to see the general technical competence of the UK government...

by mustakissa on Mon Aug 5th, 2013 at 11:50:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The costs of handling the waste are taken into account. There are wast funds collected during power generation and set aside for this purpose. More than sufficient funds.
 The problem is that most plans to actually implement a solution get sabotaged at the political stage, either by so called greens that consider being a thorn in the side of the nuclear industry a higher priority than dealing with the waste or by bog-standard Nimby politics.
by Thomas on Mon Aug 5th, 2013 at 02:11:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Fins and Swedes are actually building depositories. The US military also managed to get an actual depository built. So it is possible. It just requires actual political will.
by Thomas on Mon Aug 5th, 2013 at 02:14:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
or by bog-standard Nimby politics

Yeah one wonders how stupid folks can be to oppose something in their back yard that the very same authorities that vouched for all those power plants call perfectly safe... not even the threat of Wind Turbine Syndrome :-)

But on one point, Thomas, your diagnosis is spot-on: nuclear power and democratic principles, like transparency, do not sit well together.

by mustakissa on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 10:56:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Facilities multiple orders of magnitude more dangerous to their neighbors than a geological depository shielded by 600 meters of rock get approved and built with no  political obstacles nearly as difficult as those facing nuclear facilities. Heck, even nuclear facilities go up with absolutely no problems whatsoever as long as the nuclear facility in question is not related to power generation. If you are a hospital, the the sewer system is a perfectly legal and acceptable way to dispose of high-activity isotopes!
But hook it up to the grid, and suddenly all things nuclear get treated like they were the sword Stormbringer, and having any contact with radiation whatsoever will destroy your eternal soul.
by Thomas on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 12:35:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is the small matter of volume and concentration in hospital runoff.

That said, hospitals that dump even their septic systems into a municipal sewer need to be upgraded. Given the proliferation of extremely hard-to-kill bugs in hospital settings, you could easily argue that anything coming out of a modern hospital needs to be treated as a biohazard. Radioactivity would perhaps even improve upon the matter, by killing off some of the damn superbugs.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 01:28:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
killing off some of the damn superbugs.

And causing an increase in the mutation rate of the rest, only one of which might convince us that this was a bad idea. I much prefer a procedure to steralize all hospital waste, probably thermally, before allowing it into waste treatment facilities. Otherwise we risk turning the waste treatment facility into a bio-hazard breeder - likely a low probability high impact danger.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 01:44:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, dumping stuff is just unwise. Generally.
by mustakissa on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 11:55:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the town where I live, the local hospital has solved this problem by the introduction of Pharmafilter, a system which claims 100 % recycling, including hormones. The little movie clip of the concept explains the basic ideas.

Medical isotopes are a different waste stream in the Netherlands and, principally, should end up at the nuclear storage facility of Covra.

by Bjinse on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 07:56:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gas plasma incineration would seem to be indicated for hospital wastes, it is likely to be rolled out as a replacement for old-style polluting rubbish incineration over the next decade.

Gas plasma also has a role for nuclear waste management, it can be used to greatly reduce volumes and glassify all sorts of stuff for ultimate storage.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 09:24:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas, in what "civilized" lands are hospitals allowed to dispose of "high-activity isotopes" in the sewers? Even low-level waste? What are all those specialized containers (and procedures) for then?

(We're not speaking about Mafia or criminal owned hospitals, although with a vast proliferation of nuclear plants, given the current state of this civilization, that would identify another significant problem.)

Speaking of geological depositories shielded by 600 meters of rock... how much do you know about earthquakes and their effects, especially over the time frames you speak of.

What else have we posited here?


The costs of handling the waste are taken into account. There are wast funds collected during power generation and set aside for this purpose. More than sufficient funds.

How many lands where nukes are now proposed have the governance in place to completely sequester such funds, while at the same time there is nowhere near enough for social funding of basic civilization. Assuming there are no cost overruns, of course. And that's just the planned waste. Did you know that Ukraine is solely responsible for Chernobyl funding after the sarcophagus is built? How about waste costs in Bulgaria or Romania, to mention two.


plans to actually implement a solution get sabotaged at the political stage, either by so called greens that consider being a thorn in the side of the nuclear industry a higher priority than dealing with the waste or by bog-standard Nimby politics.

Yes Thomas, the problems with nuclear power are because of greens and nimbys. Who sometimes use ionizing radiation studies or financial cost overrun data to disprove your studies, or at the very least, underscore a very unsettled set of questions.

I can't address the issue of contact with radiation destroying an eternal soul, since most with an eternal soul wouldn't build the plants in the first place, but i do know why they put a lead codpiece over the family jewels when you get some other body part Roentgened.

Only in science fiction stories would a civilization 300 years in the future have a rebel component with sophisticated drilling rigs to go back down and get the stuff for weapons, and that also wouldn't happen to descendants of this incredibly intelligent and peaceful civilization we lovingly call our own.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 02:40:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd be more worried about grave robbers than sabotage, honestly. In every past civilization, "don't go in here, on pain of death" has meant "we buried this dude with loads of valuables."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 03:12:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our curses are better, they are based on science!

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 03:56:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can actually see someone saying this non-sarcastically.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sat Aug 10th, 2013 at 09:27:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People get injected with specialized isotopes all the time for medical purposes. I have never heard of anyone collecting them after, and the isotopes in question get picked because the body is good at eliminating them once they have served their purpose. So they end up in the sever. That isnt that big a deal, since the decay chains are short, but the point is noone gives half a darn.

Re; depositories. I have read the design specs on the Finnish and Swedish proposals. They are overkill. They are also no going to run over, because.. well, Sweden. Rockworks is not exactly an unknown engineering discipline.
Also read the specs on yucca, which really, really fracking ought to be used. The critique points are along the lines of "If the yucca desert sees a 3 order increase in average rainfall, waste may escape in 500000 years"... at which point, it would have decayed to harmlessness. And because of that risk, currently, waste is getting left at reactors. Which is so much better. Arrgh. Harry Reid is a menace.

by Thomas on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 04:41:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's really not the main source of isotopes from hospitals. The by far larger source is the waste from the sources generating the medical isotopes. And those are disposed of as radioactive waste.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 02:59:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't be compared to corium or spent fuel rods either.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 04:15:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Particles moving at relativistic speeds are particles moving at relativistic speed. Doesn't matter where they come from. Subatomic particles do not come with return addresses.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 04:25:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What Migs said, is what i commented about.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 06:22:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Jake's "sources generating the medical isotopes" would be at least medium-life radioactive materials whose decay products are the short-lived medical isotopes.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 06:27:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, but they are not disposed of in sewers, as i posted:


Thomas, in what "civilized" lands are hospitals allowed to dispose of "high-activity isotopes" in the sewers? Even low-level waste? What are all those specialized containers (and procedures) for then?

In fact, and i don't know if it's still the case, decades ago many sensitive stands to hold stuff which couldn't move had lead-shielded U-isotopes as heavy weight in their support frames, just as fighter-bombers used to have, and may still have, as trim weight.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 10:05:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly because the medical isotopes have very short half-lives of the order of hours.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 04:38:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:
the point is noone gives half a darn

How much of a point is that anyway? What major nuclear accidents show is that the risks are very considerable, insuring against them isn't possible, and even (as may be the case with Fukushima), the costs may rise to such a level no entity, private or public, is going to face them (ie things will be left to go to hell). Whether people's fears about radioactivity are ignorant or not is a red herring.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 06:36:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Three hundred years into the future, the fission products have gone (reduced to 0.1% of original). The actinides decay has only just started.

This is what the world looks like when you move 300 years along the time line in the opposite direction.

I don't doubt that the geology behind these repositories (the Finnish one at least) is OK. But, humanity is a geological force already today, and a lot less predictable than the natural ones. I have no problem with nuclear technologies as such -- they are impressive engineering feats. But, before basing our planet's energy economy on them, we should perhaps get ourselves a new humanity to go with it.

by mustakissa on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 12:20:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It will, indeed, be trivial for our descendants to dig the stuff back up if they decide to. This is a feature, not a bug. There are disposal methods that would take the stuff permanently out of the biosphere, but that would be unjust since once it is cooled off some, this stuff has lots of potential uses. The goal of a depository is not to get permanently rid of it, but to store it for an arbitrary length of time.
by Thomas on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 01:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 03:45:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and i'll disagree with Jake for giving that post a four.

  1. There is nothing "trivial" about a civilization which poisons its food, air and water digging up the effluent of a process it didn't understand in the first place. (One could argue that this civilization did understand the technology of splitting the atom, or at least some of it, without actually knowing where it would lead.)

  2. There are no demonstrable, cost-effective "disposal" methods which "would take the stuff permanently out of the biosphere," certainly not proven over even a small portion of the time scale of the danger. Everything else is speculation.

  3. The level of safe, sustainable alternatives makes this discussion ridiculous, at least until war and hatred and famine and injustice are ended. But technologists never put anything into context. (I'm addressing the nuclear elite, here, not Jake. Look at the success of the oil-based Green Revolution, for example, or read about the benefits of coal from two centuries ago.)

  4. thomas has already blamed the lack of demonstrable, cost effective "storage" solutions on greens and nimbys. coming from a Native mind-set, i'll want to be a Niaby... not in anyone's backyard.


"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 04:49:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not going into wheter it would work as claimed, the Swedish nuclear fuel management company (SKB) has investigated a deep hole solution with 2000-4000 meters deep holes where encapsulated waste would be dropped and covered up without any known way of retrieving it. Which is presumably what Thomas refers to.

However, that is not the solution in the proposed end waste facility outside Forsmark, where instead the waste is to be stored in copper containers, wrapped in bensonit mud (which increases in volume when wet) and stored 500 meter down in rock. This is called the KBS-3 model, and the waste will be retrievable be design. The main point of debate in Sweden is at what speed the copper layer will corrode under the planned circumstances.

I do not know precisely why the KBS-3 was chosen over deep holes, which includes not knowing if deep holes were judged more expensive or unsafe. If guessing, I would say that an organisation running continuos improvements over the foreseeable future suits Swedish policy makers better then a final technical solution.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 05:22:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Deep bore holes are not an option for two reasons.

One is retrievability, even if this isn't talked about much. The other is risks. What do you do if something goes wrong while you're lowering the canister into the borehole? What if it gets stuck, or the cable breaks, or something else happens? Basically, you're screwed then.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 10:38:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.. Nuclear waste is not like chemical waste. Decay chains have predictable endpoints, and it becomes less dangerous over time. A fuel rod fresh from the reactor contains a witches brew. The same rod 400 years later contains uranium, plutonium, Technetium, stable platinum group  metals and odds and ends of other non-radioactive bits.  Odds that someone in 2503 is going to look at that composition list and have uses for 100% of it are pretty darn high.
Certainly, it is not a decision we want to take away from them, and if they do not want the stuff, they can leave it in the ground.
Where it will stay.
 As legacies of our current industrial civilizations go, this one is nearly infinitely kinder than the CO2 or dioxin, or hormone mimic chemicals, ect, ect, ect, ect.
by Thomas on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 08:44:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of geological depositories shielded by 600 meters of rock... how much do you know about earthquakes and their effects, especially over the time frames you speak of.

The Baltic Shield is as stable as you can seismically get on this planet - which does not mean it is free of earthquakes, but none severe.

Nevada is part of the Basin and Range province, which I've never studied in detail but as far as I know remains tectonically mystifying.

by Bjinse on Wed Aug 7th, 2013 at 08:18:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't have transparency or the terrorists win.

No, seriously:

According to Jan-Olov Liljenzin, professor in nuclear chemistry at Chalmers university of technology (second largest technical college in Sweden) this is probably an empty gesture, and IAEA knows it. After september 11th 2001 nuclear companies has been ordered (by the governments) to keep secret anything that could help terrorists.

Apparently after the accident in Forsmark last summer Liljenzin encouraged Vattenfall to publicly explain the specifics of the electric system. They explained that they were not allowed too by law.



Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Aug 6th, 2013 at 04:00:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is particularly ironic given the atrocious physical safety at the plants. At least it was atrocius (no walls, no barbed wire, unarmed guards and so on) when I visited Forsmark when I was in high school 10 years ago, even though it has supposedly improved since.

Hell, even though physical safety has increased, it's still so bad that Greenpeace guys managed to break in and stay hidden for more than 24 hours at the Ringhals plant site as late as last year. The French are much better at this than we are, probably due to what Pierre Trudeau would probably have called their lack of "a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns".

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 10:52:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am with Thomas and Starvid on the costs of taking care of the waste. Big as a one-off expense, but small if factored into the kWh price over time.

But to me, that makes it worse.

I don't think it is nimby-ism. The Swedish experience has shown that over time, the mood in the communities that has nuclear plants adopts to consider nuclear very, very safe (dissenters move away, new ones don't move there). After attempts at going after storage in communities that did not want it in the 90ies, the government got Östhammar (with Forsmark nuclear plant) and Oskarshamn (with Oskarshamn nuclear plant and CLAB middle term storage) fighting over the end storage and the jobs it would bring.

Actually, if resistance to nuclear had been so strong as to prevent waste management, it would have prevented the nuclear plants in the first place. Because the waste managment and its costs should have been planned at the same time as the first reactors was. Clearly, in many countries it wasn't, it was left to an unclear future.

So, solutions while costly are manageble and while creating local resistance are not worse then the plants themselves. Which means that the problem is organisational, there was never an intention at accepting the costs.

So the question that is sometimes posed as "but what is nuclear power depends on perfection" turns into "but what is nuclear power depends on at least a modicum of responsibility". And that is worse.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 05:48:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please explain how the costs can be separated from the risks, meaning the risks along the entire fuel cycle, as well as the risks in storage. Costs can not be considered in isolation, no?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 8th, 2013 at 07:06:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fine, the costs of storage if it works as planned are not so big as to make nuclear power unprofitable. But I don't see how that would affect my point.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Aug 9th, 2013 at 03:01:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
eurogreen:
How is it possible to build new nuclear plants without budgeting the fuel-cycle costs?

shhh, you'll disturb the gorilla

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Aug 10th, 2013 at 08:04:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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