Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nuclear waste

The discharged reactor fuel frm Light Water Reactors is often referred to as nuclear waste. Yet since virtually everything in the spent fuel pellets is usable in some form some day, it "spent" reactor fuel is not true waste. In fact "spent" reactor fuel is not truly "spent," because it can be burned further in a CANDU reactor. In fact "spent" reactor fuel is slightly more enriched than natural uranium, which is the fuel CANDU reactors are designed to burn.

"Spent" reactor fuel can be used in breeder reactors.

Now regardles, of the potential usability of nuclear waste, it has become a useful symbol to the opponants of nuclear power. The standard opposition line is that nuclear power is dangerous because it produces large amounts of highly dangerous, highly radioactive, highly toxic, highly dirty nuclear waste.

Not only is nuclear waste dirty, nastym bad and evil, but it does what every nasty, dirty and evli thing does, iy attracts bad people. It becomes a targets for Terrorism. Not only are terriorist irresistibly attracted to nuclear waste, because they cannot think of anything more evil with which to accomplish their nasty purposes, but terrorist are imune to the harm which befalls ordinary people when the encounter nuclear waste. Thus terrorist face no hazords from handling nuclear waste, and can easily turn it into weapons with no special rquipyment, training or expertise. Or ay least so the story goes, when told by opponanys of nuclear power.

The enemies of nuclear power of course are also opposed to doing anything with spent nuclear waste. They are opposed to any and every storage scheme. They are opposed to reprocessing spent nuclease fuel, so that it could be reused, and the are opposed to doing nothing with it. Thus the opponants of nuclear power leave us with an interesting quandry. What do we do with all that stuff that has been left over from the atomic age? What do we do with the highly radioactive and toxic left over fuel from military reactors? What do we do with all that fishionable stuff, that is left over from cold war atomic bombs?

Paradoxically the only way to get rid of fissionable materials is to burn them in reactors.

So with or without new reactors we have a significant problem to solvem with large quanities of bomb grade fissionable materials, left over materials from cold war nuclear programs, the spent fuel from hundreds of naval reactors. The left over fuel materials from civilian power plants is only a part of the problem.

Yet by pointing to the used fuel dumps at nuclear planys, the anti0buk folks do point to a problem, even if it is not the one they think it is.

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