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Earth Power Science Technology

Planned Nuclear Reactors Will Destroy Atomic Waste 344

separsons writes "A group of French scientists are developing a nuclear reactor that burns up actinides — highly radioactive uranium isotopes. They estimate that 'the volume of high-level nuclear waste produced by all of France’s 58 reactors over the past 40 years could fit in one Olympic-size swimming pool.' And they're not the only ones trying to eliminate atomic waste: Researchers at the University of Texas in Austin are working on a fusion-fission reactor. The reactor destroys waste by firing streams of neutrons at it, reducing atomic waste by up to 99 percent!"
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Planned Nuclear Reactors Will Destroy Atomic Waste

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  • LFTR (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Motor ( 104119 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:21PM (#31576500)
    The article doesn't make it clear which technology they are referring to... however this google tech talk on LFTR [youtube.com] is absolutely fascinating.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:43PM (#31576750)

    No one ever mentions the other possible solution: Use less energy. We must continue to consume more and faster and hope that some fantasy technology in the future will make it sustainable.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:21PM (#31577166) Homepage

    They estimate that 'the volume of high-level nuclear waste produced by all of France’s 58 reactors over the past 40 years could fit in one Olympic-size swimming pool.'

    Why do the nuclear industry always trot out these cutesy metaphors? They're so easy to pick fun of that even people who are reasonably friendly toward the industry can't resist. I mean, yes, it would all fit into an Olympic swimming pool. For about a millisecond. Then it would go critical, and your swimming pool would be an area the size of texas covered in a very thin layer of radioactive waste, plus a big glass pit in the middle. Or maybe not--I don't actually know if such a pile would go critical, but am I not the only one into whose mind this image sprung the moment we read the metaphor?

  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:35PM (#31577330)
    Using energy more efficiently isn't a solution in itself, but it can be part of a solution. If you can cut energy use by just 30%, that's 30% fewer nuclear power plants we'll need to build.
  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:49PM (#31577450)

    Solar-thermic power plants? Helooohooo?? ;)
    Water, glass, steel, aluminium, desert wasteland, perhaps some ceramics, DONE!
    Cheap as shit, simple design, completely recyclable, out of the most abundant resources, and shitloads of free energy from the sun.
    If someone doesn’t like that, he’s not an activist, but mentally insane. ^^

    If you want to use them at night, create liquid hydrogen or a similar clean fuel. With the amount of power that the sun delivers, it doesn’t matter much that that is a pretty inefficient process.
    Or use the electricity right on place, to produce something. Like aluminium. If one has a brain, there is a solution.

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by daem0n1x ( 748565 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:04PM (#31577594)

    I'm sending shitloads of free energy your way every day...why the fuck are you wasting it?"

    Because nobody's making a shitload of money with it. When they invent a way to cover the sun and charge you for sunlight, solar will be a success!

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:06PM (#31577620) Homepage

    Destroying animals that are no danger to others and would make suitable pets is one example.

    It's a liability issue. My S.O. is taking a biotech course, and has learned that most animals in studies are euthanized as a matter of course. The reason is apparently the fear of lawsuits should the animal ever do anything and it being blamed on whatever treatments they gave it. This made her very sad. It sounds retarded and lazy to me. Is it not possible to sign a waiver that says "This animal was once treated with a new kind of doggie aspirin. It is completely safe as far as we know, but if somehow it turns the dog into Kujo in five years, you've been warned." No, just kill em and the problem goes away...

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bane2571 ( 1024309 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:40PM (#31577954)
    I could be wrong, but the energy density is way too low for that kind of generator to work picture every corn field in the US converted to power production was how it was once described to me.
  • Re:and yet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by astar ( 203020 ) <max.stalnaker@gmail.com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:45PM (#31578002) Homepage

    indians are working hard on thorium cycle stuff. they figure enough thorium for 155k years. nice deals with the russian, so we can see some international interest here.

    a useful question about solar installations is whether they are just batteries

  • That is, broadly speaking, the way that nuclear fission works.
    That's also (speaking just as broadly) how combustion works. What a coincidence.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:33PM (#31578382)
    No he knew exactly what he was doing, and remember all he did was to remove a huge subsidy for weapons materials that were no longer needed due to the size of the stockpile.
    He did nothing at all to stop nuclear succeeding on it's own merits instead of on taxpayer funded life support. The US nuclear industry has done nothing much since then apart from spend a lot of money on PR to get their free gift from the taxpayers back. Other places have actually put some work in and produced far more viable efforts - hence the established USA civilian nuclear industry being twenty years behind South Africa, China and India. The only real exeption is Japanese technology brought in to a US company that had otherwise been sitting around waiting for the handout for twenty years.
    Startups and imports will bury them, and should have done it long ago.
  • Re:See? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:55PM (#31578544)

    Some of us have been saying for decades that another way to say "nuclear waste" is "nuclear fuel."

    But you've been completely wrong, it's exactly like calling what you excrete food. While there is plenty of energy that can be recovered from that it takes a lot of work or something else with a completely different digestive system.
    The whole reason people have been saying for years that Uranium is running out is only because ore of very high purity was running out - there was a lot of other stuff but it was a lot more expensive to turn it into fuel.
    One of the things about some newer designs is they are nowhere near as fussy about their fuel, so a shortage of high purity Uranium ore doesn't matter to them, or they can use retired or stockpiled weapon material, or even some kinds of waste. It's a lot better than the reprocessing attempts by the French over the last thirty years that resulted in fuel a lot more expensive than making new fuel from ore in the first place - use something that can use the waste without so much reprocessing instead.

  • emotional inertia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Onymous Coward ( 97719 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:56PM (#31578556) Homepage

    Hm. I think the two examples you gave mostly substantiate my understanding of the problem with the anti-nuclear mentality.

    "...even after they were informed of the right answer, they still didn't change their opinions..." This is the crux. Despite revised knowledge, there's some kind of emotional resistance to nuclear. The emotional resistance started as fear of catastrophe which was not undone by learning different. The fear remained regardless of knowledge change. Emotions don't necessarily respond to logic/information. (Which you see in every online debate.)

    Emotional inertia that happens all the time. Mostly it causes willful ignorance and confirmation bias, but I guess even a few weeks of education won't necessarily overcome it.

    What needs doing is figuring out how that inertia works. Step 3, profit. Anyone understand psychology well enough that they can give pointers on research starting points for this issue?

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @11:09PM (#31579036)

    You're wrong (sorry). As humans we tend to have a horrible idea of how things scale outside of our instinctive narrow range. The energy density of a solar-thermal plant is indeed considerably less than a coal plant - but not that low, and plenty for all but truly heavy industry (and that's what nuclear is for) once you understand the engineering involved. Also, it's not just watts:area of the plant, it's watts:area:cost where cost is capital plus maintenance and supply, and area is plant plus its logistics chain.

    Coal plants have coal mines, heavy road/rail infrastructure to transport fuel and waste, emit large quantities of pollution (not just at the plant but also at the mines and along the transport routes, and not just heavy metals but also more radioactives by mass per watt than nuclear plants), high maintenance costs, high worker casualties, etcetera.

    Solar-thermal plants have the sun, light road/rail infrastructure to transport workers, emit no pollution, low maintenance costs, low worker casualties, etcetera. The use of heat storage/recycling (e.g. molten salt tanks) allows night-time power distribution.

    Or to put it another way - sure, you need orders of magnitude more surface area for solar-thermal than coal - but we've got that available, and while your capital costs work out higher your ongoing costs are orders of magnitude less to your civilisation as a whole.

    Coal: Quicker, easier, more seductive. But you end up ugly and alone.

  • by leftie ( 667677 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @11:54PM (#31579266)

    Will the corporation trying to sell this reactor design guarantee it's promises will be backed up with real cash?

    Fuck NO! Not one has. Not one corporation has stood behind a reactor it built through decommissioning.

    Every damn one of these power utilities that has built a nuclear reactor has abandoned the reactors along with and the cost for decommissioning the reactors on the US Federal Government.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:23AM (#31579438)

    Or you could just build that many more Nukes. Is there some sort of energy generation cap I don't know about?

  • by rberger ( 2481 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:13AM (#31579730) Homepage

    You people don't remember all the promises of Nuclear Power 1.0.

    This is just another chorus of promises that mask the dangers and inefficiencies of using radioactive materials to boil water.

    Why should we be spending orders of magnitude more than other power sources just to build new terrorist targets and devices that spew the ultimate terrorist material?

    Even if somehow a scalable, cost effective process to "burn" nuclear waste was created, the reactors themselves become high level nuclear waste that has to be dealt with.

    There are so many reasons that nuclear power technology now available or is on the horizon is bad and so many better alternatives, why are we wasting time on it?

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @04:07AM (#31580422)

    ... WTF are these guys smoking?

    Actinides aren't the big problem as far as nuclear waste is concerned - fission products are. Especially the long-lived ones that are very mobile in the environment, easy to incorporate (iodine, cesium, strontium) and basically impossible to separate from the rest of the waste chemically (unlike actinides). Heck, many actinides are actually nuclear fuel or could be turned into nuclear fuel. Fission products are just nasty, deadly poisons.

    That's why I'd rather spend more on researching fusion power - you'll still end up with some radioactive waste, but you have some degree of control over its composition and you will not create any of the problematic isotopes mentioned above.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay