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  • More Nuclear Energy, Less Nuclear Waste

    Another reason we need a free market approach to managing nuclear waste in the United States:

    “Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have designed a new system that, when fully developed, would use fusion to eliminate most of the transuranic waste produced by nuclear power plants.

    The physicists’ new invention could drastically decrease the need for any additional or expanded geological repositories.

    “Most people cite nuclear waste as the main reason they oppose nuclear fission as a source of power,” says Swadesh Mahajan, senior research scientist.

    The scientists propose destroying the waste using a fusion-fission hybrid reactor, the centerpiece of which is a high power Compact Fusion Neutron Source (CFNS) made possible by a crucial invention.”

    When this would become commercially viable is anybody’s guess, but it provides further support for new, innovative ideas rather than stifling them by retaining the status quo. It’s true, the U.S. already has a lot of nuclear waste harmlessly sitting at reactor sites all over the country. 58,000 tons of it. 2,000 tons produced annually.

    The solution for that? You guessed it. A free-market approach to managing nuclear waste, with proper government oversight, is the only way to ensure that the commercial nuclear industry will be sustainable in the long run. Among the steps needed to privatize the system, as outlined by Heritage nuclear expert Jack Spencer, include:

    • Creating the legal framework that allows the private sector to price geologic storage as a commodity;
    • Empowering the private sector to manage used fuel;
    • Repealing the 70,000-ton limitation on the Yucca Mountain repository and instead let technology, science, and physical capacity determine the appropriate limit;
    • Creating a private entity that is representative of but independent from nuclear operators to manage Yucca Mountain;
    • Repealing the mil, abolish the Nuclear Waste Fund, and transfer the remaining funds to a private entity to cover the expenses of constructing Yucca Mountain; and
    • Limiting the federal government’s role to providing oversight, basic research, and development and taking title of spent fuel upon repository decom¬missioning.

    The full paper, which details the federal government’s mismanagement of waste, can be found here. It won’t be easy. But if we’re serious about nuclear energy meeting energy demands and environmental goals, it is without a doubt necessary.

    The reality is there’s a good possibility the best solution to nuclear waste hasn’t even been invented yet. But until we move away from the status quo, there won’t be any incentive for these ideas to flourish and come to fruition.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to More Nuclear Energy, Less Nuclear Waste

    1. Spiritof76, New Hamp says:

      Thanks for a good article on nuclear waste.

      Nuclear energy is another area where people that believe in our founding principles and want to put them to practice are prevented by people who believe in socialism.

      I often wonder what has happened to our spirit of "can do" that was present among our people as late as the 1960s. I realize that our government that no longer follows our Constitution is the mill stone around our necks.

      It makes me mad and sad at the same time how far we could have progressed with the nuclear power, if people were allowed to access their inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    2. Arthur J. Bryant says:

      The "used" contents of a nuclear reactor pile consists of 99.7 per cent fuel and 0.3 per cent non fuel which is useful radioactive metals. The fuel is uranium 238 which can be converted to fissionable uranium 235, uranium 235 which was partly depleted so as not to be able to split during operation, and fissionable plutonium which is a by product of fission. We have been mixing this valuable fuel with trash and then storing the mixture in pools with eventual transfer to Yucca. Stupid waste! We should be retreating this mixture to increase the uranium 235 component to be enough to restart and continue fision. If this can be done also during the fission process by adding fusion, great. But meanwhile start doing what we can do right now.

    3. Sam Kendall, Wiscons says:

      The storage facility at Yucca Mountain should be made so that fuel would be held there temporarily. The reason being that, although the stored Uranium is of a low enough concentration of U-235 to be safely stored (safely being relative), it can be refined back to commercial grade. Although, I sincerely hope that 'used' fuel is not 99.7 percent fuel since that's about the concentration of weapons grade Uranium. On that note, the major advantage of fission is that we have not had to mine any Uranium for quite some time. Why? Because with the treaties that we signed agreeing to dismantle nuclear weapons, we've been diluting the concentration of those warheads down to commercial grade.

    4. Ken says:


      We are going to negotiate a further reduction in nuclear warheads with the Russians. This will make more virgin fissile material available for power production. Instead of mixing it down to low enriched uranium, it should be used to kick start Thorium breeder reactions that will then become sustainable and produce very low waste fuel. There are two promising Thorium-based designs, the LFTR and the Radkowsky Seed and Blanket design. Both are capable of burning down waste transuranics in the process of energy production. The S & B is three times more efficient at Pu disposal than MOX and a lot less expensive. The LFTR needs funding but holds amazing promise for not only cleaning up the mess we now have from our fleet of inefficient light water reactors, but producing plentiful electric and industrial heat energy. What people don't understand is that the LWR was probably one of the worst ways to produce commercial nuclear power. We need to get to Gen IV reactors ASAP.

    5. Axil says:

      I like the Lftr. The LFTR is a very simple, efficient, and elegant type of reactor. It can use any kind of nuclear fuel, bomb material, or nuclear waste product to produce very high temperature heat and at the same time breed more fuel in the bargain. This thrifty approach to nuclear energy greatly appeals to me, but I became even more interested in the LFTR when the details of a new patent were revealed by Dr LeBlanc. It opens up the possibility of building a reactor that can run for 30 years without refueling in an unattended mode sited underground while it breeds new fuel within the thorium structure of the reactor itself. In order to get to this U233 that has been produced inside the very walls of the reactor containment vessel, a proliferator must destroy the reactor, chop it up into small pieces while enduring heavy gamma radiation exposure without being detected, then reprocess these reactor pieces using isotopic separation since the U233 is denatured with enough U238 to make chemical separation of bomb grade U233 impossible. Now, this is a tall order for any proliferator and may just be an impossible assignment.

      At the end of the service life of the Lftr, the reactor vessel is sent back to the factory where it is reduced to liquid fluoride salts that become the feedstock of a next new Lftr. This feedstock can only be used by the new Lftr and not for bombs. The waste products are held at the factory for a few hundred years to cool down before they are mined for the many precious elements contained within like platinum and iridium. Now that’s what I call a safe, efficient and thrifty mode of operation.

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