Storing Nuclear Waste at Yucca or is it just Yukee?

     Ok I confess I live in Las Vegas.  Candidly the proposed nuclear waste depository here is a great opportunity.  If it were me, I would pass a myriad of state laws to insure we made the rest of America pay a gazillion dollars to us for a problem we didn’t create.  But then they haven’t put me in charge….yet!

      First, let me say nuclear energy is an excellent clean source.  Remember I am a nuclear physicist by training.  Unlike the horror stories of Love Canal, and Chernobyl, it is now quite easy to build a truly fail safe reactor.  Specifically, it is no longer required to build redundant systems to keep the nuclear pile cool.  Now it is possible to make a proverbial pile of ceramic "billiard balls" that get plenty hot but cannot overheat and melt because the hybrid material keeps everything spaced apart to moderate the rate.  So it can never go critical. When you compare this to coal, and its impact on the environment there is no comparison for electricity generation.  Unfortunately, we are falling way behind the rest of the world in this area as dozens and dozens of new reactors are being built and we are stuck in the stone age in our beliefs

     However, this does not deny that you have to deal with the waste.  Our past dumps near Indian reservations now threaten their water supplies.  Most people are unaware of where this waste is stored today.  Specifically, each reactor stores their waste on site.  This "distributed" solution in consistent with all our other environmental policies.  The U.S. strategy can best be termed, "if you must pollute then dilute".  Meaning we never really go clean we just remix things down to levels that are acceptable.  That is how water treatment works for example.   The obvious answer to nuclear waste is to dump it on the Sun.  However, I doubt people would feel very comfortable watching rockets launching loaded with this stuff.  I am amazed no one seems to mind having it trucked all across America. 

     Bottom line, the cost of waste disposal needs to be built into the overall rates for generation.  It is not a federal government cost that should be born by everyone, but rather a cost to be born by the users of power from that facility.

      Today it is proposed to dump it in Nevada, albeit it with better precautions.  Like I said above, most people in this state oppose it.  However, I suspect at the right PRICE we could get a majority. THEN, perhaps we could strike a deal to dump it in Venezuela or Africa or maybe even China.  They seem willing to take all our other waste and do a good job of generating their own to boot.  Nevada could keep the difference! 

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2 Responses to Storing Nuclear Waste at Yucca or is it just Yukee?

  1. mumblemouth says:

    Wouldn’t we have much less of a waste problem if we reprocessed spent fuel like the French and British do? The discussion at the bottom of the page on http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=189253 is pretty interesting.

  2. NickAthens says:

    Actually NO. Even though Carter and Clinton stopped these programs out of a lame fear about nuclear non-proliferation that wasn’t backed by science, they don’t make much sense either. Unfortuantely, they cost another gazilion dollars, for which Bush has already requested at least $400 Billion! And you still end up with waste to deal with…so now you truck the stuff to a reprocessing site, then still truck the waste to yet another geologic site.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_security/nuclear_terrorism/extracting-plutonium-from-nuclear-reactor-spent-fuel.html

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