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Old 08-09-2010, 06:42 AM
 
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I have not heard anything about Yucca Mountain lately. Note: This was the site in Nevada in which would be a permanent dump for nuclear waste. What is the status of the proposal to dump our nuclear waste in Nevada? Did the Obama Administration realize that dumping all that waste in Nevada may not be too popular? Even the transportation of such waste along freight lines could be dangerous. I used to hear a lot about it...now, I hear nothing. Was the project terminated or at elast postponed?
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Old 09-11-2010, 06:59 PM
 
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From what I hear Yucca Mountain is off the table.

I was in Seattle in early August for a class. Two of the people in that class work for Hanford. One was hired to work on the issue of Hanford's nuclear waste. Since Hanford was the first nuclear facility in America and was built in the 1943 and built one of the bombs that ended WWII. The problem is there is 53 million gallons of high reactive nuclear waste buried, and it has no place to go. ANd yes, some of the tanks have leaked. They know the sites, but do not know the constiuets of all of the waste. This waste was to be transported to Yucca mountain to be stored in deep geological burial sites. Now this waste is still buried in the Tri-Cities, WA area.

There's a lot of information on Hanford on Wikipedia. My former brother-in-law worked there from the late 70's to sometime in the 80's.

Out of curiosity I searched Hanford, yucca mountain and see a Tri-Herold that looks like the Yucca Mountain deal may not yet be off the table. There was a briefing on July 16, 2010 which questions whether the Obama Administration has the legal authority to take the Yucca Mountain repository off the table. Here's the link: Hastings urges end to Yucca Mountain decision delay - Mid-Columbia News | Tri-City Herald : Mid-Columbia news

I was told they've been working on this Yucca Mountain repository and the removal and transportation of the massive amounts of radioactive waste from Hanford for over 20 years.
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Old 09-13-2010, 09:45 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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I'm of mixed opinion on Yucca mountain. Nuclear waste is currently stored on-site at nuclear power plants in giant concrete casks. They're exposed to wind and rain, but they are monitored for radiation and leaks. They're basically impossible to steal or damage (as they are essentially a 1000 ton block of concrete wrapped in steel) so shipping them all to one place might be more effort than it's worth.

Nuclear waste will likely be reprocessed and used as fuel for 5th-6th generation nuclear power plants when fast reactor technology becomes commercially widespread. There's enough recoverable fuel in existing stockpiles of nuclear "waste" to meet our energy needs for the next 300 years. Also, reprocessing and "burning" this fuel reduces the overall amount and duration of nuclear waste. If it's all in Nevada, then it's going to have to be shipped from there to the reprocessing plants and then on to the powerplants.

Yucca mountain seems to be based on the idea that we're going to bury this stuff "forever" rather than recycling it and using it in the next 40-50 years.
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Old 09-15-2010, 11:28 AM
 
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sponger42, good information. Nuclear is something I don't claim to know much about, and would be interested learning more about recycling nuclear waste.
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Old 09-16-2010, 12:52 PM
 
Location: Nort Seid
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Just keep in mind the waste is only one problem, in the case of the old Zion facility, they've found enough radiation in the actual building that it needs to be kept quarantined as well.

here's a recent article on Zion:

Nuclear waste has no place to go - chicagotribune.com

Here's a link on decommissioning, which is inevitable for all such facilities:

NRC: Fact Sheet on Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants
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Old 09-16-2010, 02:59 PM
 
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if you ever lived near a project like this, you learn real fast that nothing is ever dead. This can be restarted, refunded and license re-applied for by any new admininstration.
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Old 09-16-2010, 03:28 PM
 
Location: Nort Seid
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PacificFlights View Post
if you ever lived near a project like this, you learn real fast that nothing is ever dead. This can be restarted, refunded and license re-applied for by any new admininstration.
You mean the waste storage project? Very true, one hand can always undo the other.
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Old 09-16-2010, 06:15 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecovlke View Post
sponger42, good information. Nuclear is something I don't claim to know much about, and would be interested learning more about recycling nuclear waste.
There's essentially two types of reprocessing. "Sorting" and "Burning" (My own words, not industry terms) I'll try to keep this simply and not use any technical language so all readers can understand.

Sorting:
When a conventional powerplant uses nuclear fuel, it only "burns" up part of the useable Uranium. The during normal operations "unburnt" fuel gets mixed in with lots of nasty radioactive waste which prevents it from being fully burned.

Sorting plants can use chemical processes to separate this unburnt fuel, concentrate it, and put it back into the powerplants. This reduces the need to mine and concentrate new Uranium ore. Stockpiles of nuclear waste could be "Sorted" and run our current powerplants for the next 50 years without needing to mine any more Uranium ore.

The downside to sorting is that you also sort out Plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear bombs, so not just anyone can run a sorting plant.

France does this already. It's called "Reprocessing."

Burning:
A different type of reactor, called a "Breeder" reactor, can burn nuclear waste and turn it back into nuclear fuel. It sounds crazy, but you can mine a pound of Uranium, burn it in a conventional powerplant, then burn it again in a breeder reactor, then burn it AGAIN in a conventional powerplant.

Now, there's a lot of technical caveats behind all this, you do need to process the fuel at several points and some waste is always produced, AND this cycle can't go on indefinately, but if we were to run the country on nuclear power alone and we built 60% of the plants as conventional reactors, and 30% of the plants as breeder reactors, the stockpile of nuclear waste we have could meet our power needs for the next 10,000 years.

As to why we don't do this, well there's lots of reasons, but some of the big ones are:
1. Nuclear powerplants are EXPENSIVE. They require a massive up-front investment from utility companies and a long-range plan to recoup that investmnt.
2. Breeder reactors have not been fully commercialized. The technology is there, but the experience is not. They are safe and effective (breeder reactors supplied the material used to make our nuclear arsenal) but no one has proven them to be cost-effective vs. coal and oil.
3. People are afraid of nuclear power. I won't say it's without good reason too. A nuclear powerplant that gets away from you can have a massive environmental impact. The United States manufactures excellent failsafe plants and modern plants were made much safer thanks to the lessons learned from Three Mile Island (which failed in a acceptable and predicted manner with negligable release of radioactivity.) Other countries, however, do not have the same safety practices. Chernobyl comes to mind. Studying that accident and really understanding how the soviets operated their powerplants really gives new meaning to the term: "Crazy Ivan"

Number 3 is a big one, and it is going to take a lot of reasonable discussion, planning, and collaboration between pro-nukes and greens for them to resolve their differences and make sure nuclear power safety and waste management is at a good enough level that it is acceptable to deploy it as a primary power source. It sure beats coal and oil, though.
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Old 09-17-2010, 12:37 PM
 
Location: Nort Seid
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sponger42 View Post
Number 3 is a big one, and it is going to take a lot of reasonable discussion, planning, and collaboration between pro-nukes and greens for them to resolve their differences and make sure nuclear power safety and waste management is at a good enough level that it is acceptable to deploy it as a primary power source. It sure beats coal and oil, though.
Thanks for the excellent breakdown -

I'd just add that while I am certain nuclear plants are technically safer now than they ever have been, they are still at risk for natural disasters outside of human control.
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Old 09-17-2010, 02:48 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chi-town Native View Post
Thanks for the excellent breakdown -

I'd just add that while I am certain nuclear plants are technically safer now than they ever have been, they are still at risk for natural disasters outside of human control.
That's true, however Nuke plants are designed to withstand natural disasters (besides, you know, a meteor strike, in which case there are bigger issues to worry about).

As an engineer I look at the cost-benefit analysis of electrical power generation, and nuke comes out at or near the top. Some of the major factors include the environmental damage from Coal and Oil powerplants. One interesting side note is that a coal powerplant, under normal operating conditions, spews thousands of times more carcenogenic, radioactive, and toxic pollutants (as well as the thousands of tons of carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere than a nuclear powerplant.

Even if you have a higher-than-predicted failure rate of nuclear plants with some radioactive leakage during the failures, you would still produce fewer radioactive, toxic, and cancer-causing pollutants by replacing all fossil fuel powerplants with nuclear plants. And you'd get rid of one of the major sources of CO2 emissions.

I'm open-minded to hearing arguments against Nuclear power. I don't want to advocate a dangerous or non-optimal technology, but the numbers on this one just don't lie.

Of course, I'm a strong advocate for hydro, wind, and solar as well. Those are great sustainable power sources, but we would need to drastically reduce base-load requirements (and some progress in terms of efficiency improvments and operational changes is being made) and increase plant efficiency for them to be a big percentage of grid power.
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