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Power Hardware News Science

US Freezes Nuclear Power Plant Permits Because of Waste Issues 347

KindMind writes "The U.S. Government said it will stop issuing all permits for new plants and license extensions for existing plants are being frozen due to concerns over waste storage. From the article: 'The government's main watchdog, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, believes that current storage plans are safe and achievable. But a federal court said that the NRC didn't detail what the environmental consequences would be if the agency is wrong. The NRC says that "We are now considering all available options for resolving the waste issue, But, in recognition of our duties under the law, we will not issue [reactor] licenses until the court's remand is appropriately addressed." Affected are 14 reactors awaiting license renewals, and an additional 16 reactors awaiting permits for new construction.'"
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US Freezes Nuclear Power Plant Permits Because of Waste Issues

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  • by Rix ( 54095 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:36PM (#40939627)

    The world would be in a lot better place if you couldn't burn it until you'd removed an equal or greater quantity of CO2 from the atmosphere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:46PM (#40939751)

    Whats worse is the government ALREADY collected billions (32 billion) from nuclear power customers to store the spent fuel and has so far refused to provide the facility or transportation to such facility despite them already collecting the funds. The funds were probably put into the general fund and spent already meaning the choices are:
    1. Take from the general fund to actually open a site.
    2. Refund the customers the billions already paid.
    3. Screw the middle class again, don't refund, and don't open the site and call the fees a tax instead.

    Guess which one will win? When you give the federal government money or authority you lose every time. No matter who you vote for the government wins.


  • by grumling ( 94709 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:51PM (#40939797) Homepage

    Actually, they should be recycling it to get at the 95% or so of the unused refined fuel. Then take the waste products and bury them somewhere that already has a nuclear industry. Nevada's only claim to the nuclear age is that it was a test site for bombs.

    Nuclear waste: An engineering problem looking for a political solution.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @08:25PM (#40940169)
    Don't worry, "Environmentalists" are already mounting legal challenges to stop modern methods of Natural Gas extraction and will force us back to coal fairly soon. The worst thing for the environment always has, and always will be hippies.
  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@earthl ... t minus math_god> on Thursday August 09, 2012 @08:55PM (#40940527)

    The federal government is shutting down coal mines, holding up nuclear power plants, and denying permits for oil drills and pipelines. It seems like every week we hear about another solar power company going out of business because of mismanagement, fraud, and/or because they can't make a panel that works. We've dammed up every river worth a dam. Where are we supposed to get our electricity?

    Wind power might actually pan out as cheap and viable if only the federal government would let someone run the wires from where the wind blows to where the people need the electricity. Since the wind blows when it wants we'll still need some sort of storage or backup. Natural gas seems to be booming despite the best efforts of the federal government to stop that too. If we add pumping stations to the hydro dams we got we could store the electricity when the wind blows. Wind, pumped hydro, and natural gas might make for a nice mix for our electricity, each complementing the others. Problem is that at some point we're going to run out of natural gas. Can we build enough dams and windmills to power our world? Can we do it cheap enough to maintain our standard of living?

    The problem of nuclear waste is a creation of the federal government. They decided that we cannot recycle the "spent" fuel from current reactors. The so called "spent" fuel still contains large amounts of usable fuel, it's just tainted with the fission products of the fuel that was used up. The fuel waste problem would actually be solved with new, more efficient, nuclear reactors designed to use the "spent" fuel from the old reactors.

    We supposedly have a Department of Energy to solve these problems. What are they doing for us?

    It's just so frustrating seeing the government foul things up for us. The energy problems we have now are all political. The government is causing more problems than it's solving. Don't get me wrong, we need government. I think the government has just gotten too big. To get a power plant built or a pipeline run a person would have to satisfy dozens of different agencies that often have conflicting goals. We need to trim down the size of government, getting rid of the Department of Energy is as good of a place to start as any.

    Rant over.

  • by bigtrike ( 904535 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @08:58PM (#40940555)

    Disenfranchising is nothing new and definitely not limited to the Chicago machine (which Obama was only minimally a part of). Bush ran a particularly dirty campaign in 2000. For example, Rove's people called a bunch of voters suggesting that McCain had an illegitimate vietnamese child to win the primary (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Push_poll#Political_push_polls:_United_States [wikipedia.org] ) Then a bunch of paid GOP staffers were responsible for starting a riot that stopped the recount in 2000: http://archive.democrats.com/images/miamirioters.jpg [democrats.com]
    This has been going on long before Obama: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_suppression#Examples_of_voter_suppression_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

  • by camperslo ( 704715 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @09:23PM (#40940791)

    Actually, they should be recycling it to get at the 95% or so of the unused refined fuel.

    Unfortunately while recycling works to extract useful fuel, since that is a small percentage of the total it does nearly nothing to reduce the amount of high-level waste posing a storage problem. It's also a very complex and hazardous process, far more so than refining raw ore was originally. An additional problem is that some of what is recovered poses even greater weapons-related concerns than the original fuel. France, which processes more spent fuel than anyone else, still does so with only a small percentage of what they produce.

    Beyond coping with products of normal fuel production, operation and dismantling, Japan has vast amounts of contaminated material to put somewhere. Someone was joking that they should make another island out of it, and have some government, power industry, and banking officials live there.

    So other countries are off-shoring fuel processing, and requiring that the waste not be shipped back. If that's not obscene exploitation of a poor country, I don't know what is.

  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @09:32PM (#40940885)

    And if we built a few modern reactors (i.e. something less than 20years old) a lot of that waste would become a source of fuel. But we sure as hell can't build a new reactor. We have wind power!

    I really do like the potential wind, geothermal and solar power has. They aren't bad things to develop.

    But it seems that the purpose of a wind turbine is to make us feel green, while we generate most of our electricity from coal.

    There's also the issue that monocultures are bad. We should have a diversity of energy sources. And we should have more electricity. Electrical use should be to replace fossil fuel heating, for example. It should be used to power our transportation, either directly or indirectly.

  • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday August 09, 2012 @10:14PM (#40941239) Journal

    The talings are mobile, permeable and contain high levels of residual chemical leachants that were chosen specifically to extract the radioactive materials, and remain highly corrosive. The probability radioactive toxins would enter groundwaters also used by humans would be ridiculously high.

    Most uranium mines historically range between 0.1 to 0.5% U3O8, or 1 t0 5 grams of Uranium oxide per tonne of dirt. If you chose vitrification, you would need to turn more than 300 tonnes of ground up rock into glass for every kilogram of yellowcake produced. Tailings also have a high volume of water which is hard to evaporate completely (tailings dams form a crust quickly, the slurry left behind remains semi-liquid for years). Heating so many tonnes of damp tailings would generate immense amounts of toxic, corrosive, radioactive steam, which would need to be contained and managed separately. You would also need to transport the tailings to a vitrification plant, increasing costs, probability of contamination and adding pollution.

    Having said that, it would be a cheap solution, so I'd be surprised the nuclear industry isn't already lobbying for licenses to do it.

  • by asm2750 ( 1124425 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @11:00PM (#40941503)
    Here is an idea, start building reactors that have a closed fuel cycle (thorium) or use reactors that can burn transuranic waste into waste that is less long lived (i.e. breeders, and CANDU). I think the biggest mistake that was ever made was the curtailing of nuclear reactor research. We have technology that can do this, but the morons in charge keep kicking the can down the road so it doesn't have to be their problem in the future.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2012 @11:08PM (#40941547)

    One particular part of your post worried me:

    "Lay off the vodka, and you won't have a Chernobyl. It's as simple as that."

    Last I heard, the Russians weren't laying off the vodka to any appreciable degree. As far as I know, the Japanese also haven't succeeded in banning earthquakes and Tsunamis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2012 @11:10PM (#40941559)

    Chernobyl was possibly the worst stereotypical example of batshit-crazy Soviet-era negligence I've ever heard of. [...] The Fukushima disaster resulted from similar incompetence.

    This special pleading is typical engineer mentality. "Don't blame the technology, blame the humans!" Yes, fine, but the fact is that all of these plants are operated and managed by humans, and there will continue to be errors due to all those messy irrational things that humans do (politics, cost-cutting, negligence, incompetence, etc.). When those errors take place in nuclear power plants, bad things can happen. While better-enforced regulations can help, you'd be a fool to think that we're never going to have more nuclear accidents.

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @11:13PM (#40941577)

    The impact of those emissions has a lot more to do with where they end up, how long they last, and how they are absorbed by humans, plants, and animals, than with the total amount of material being emitted.

    Or are you saying that more people will actually die because of Fukushima than because of coal-fired emissions, radioactive and otherwise? I don't think that case can possibly be made.

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @11:42PM (#40941749)

    Fine, whatever. But if you want to climb onto your high horse and preach about the amount of radioactive material released, why pick on a few isolated unintentional nuclear accidents? Why not cite the thousands of nuclear weapons tests that were deliberately conducted during the Cold War? Any one of those tests probably released more radioactivity into the air than Fukushima, and we know for a fact that people have died as a result. But did they ever kill 13,000 people a year [www.catf.us]?

    (Admittedly, that's probably some kind of nuclear-industry astroturf site, but I'll still stand by the point that we would never tolerate the environmental harm caused by coal-fired plants if it were as obvious as a Fukushima or Chernobyl.)

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:29AM (#40941965) Homepage Journal

    The engineering and store has been solved on all technical details. Environmentalist who know nothing about nuclear power, storage, risk or containment are always given too much voice.
    Let the people who have the actual knowledge debate these issue, the rest of the public should just shut the hell up.

  • The Bq dude (Score:4, Insightful)

    by harvey the nerd ( 582806 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @05:34AM (#40943563)
    The difference is that much of the Fukashima and Chenobyl radioactivity will be gone in a century, from short lived fission products. The radioactivity from coal (Th232, U235, U238, K40) will mostly still be here in hundreds of millions, and billions of years. Albeit, mostly buried in "our" geological layer.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982