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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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:36PM (#40939621)

    That is a myth. Nuclear plants release less radioactive material into the environment when they don't melt down. The meltdowns at TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukashima have made nuclear power release more radioactive material than coal over this period.

    It should make sense. Coal releases uranium and its decay products. Uranium isn't especially radioactive (U-235 has a 700 million year half-life and U-238 has a 4 billion year half-life). It takes a lot of it to have a significant effect. Nuclear plants contain massive amounts of fission products with half-lives from microseconds to millenniums. Radioactivity (activity) is equal to the concentration times the natural log of 2 divided by the half-life (A = N * ln 2 / t_1/2). It is apparent that you would need a massive amount of natural uranium to compare with even small amounts of fission product releases. Meltdowns are of a completely different magnitude.

    I'm not anti-nuke, but this argument of radioactive releases needs to be stopped. It is not valid.

  • Re:I see (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:36PM (#40939625)

    Then next mother fucker who says anything about global warming to my face, I'm going to fucking punch his lights out.

    Seriously. Bitch about CO2 generation, close down coal plants and now kibosh Nuclear. These fucking morons don't want a solution, they want everyone living in caves.

    So when the lights go out because their isn't enough generation capacity, I'm going to break some windows and set shit on fire and find some hippies to shoot just for the fucking hell of it.

  • This is stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:37PM (#40939633) Journal
    The fact is, that if we would add a couple of GE PRISM at all of the nuke sites, either running, shutting down, or shut down, we could burn up the vast majority of the 'waste'. From there, what would remain in 100 years, would fit easily in a corner of WIPPS and last only 200 years. Oddly, this would make loads of money for the plants while pretty much using up all of the 'waste'.

    In addition, all of the new sites should be switched to a thorium cycle. Very safe to run and at a fraction of the price.
  • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Thursday August 09, 2012 @07:58PM (#40939867)

    Even barrels and barrels of dirt.

    What's to be done with 52,000 tons (47,174 metric tons) of dangerously radioactive spent fuel from commercial and defense nuclear reactors? With 91 million gallons (344.5 million liters) of high-level waste left over from plutonium processing, scores of tons of plutonium, more than half a million tons (453,592 metric tons) of depleted uranium, millions of cubic feet of contaminated tools, metal scraps, clothing, oils, solvents, and other waste? And with some 265 million tons (240 million metric tons) of tailings from milling uranium ore—less than half stabilized—littering landscapes?

    Its a long article, but worth the read: Half Life—The Lethal Legacy of America's Nuclear Waste [].

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @08:03PM (#40939927)

    But the deal is, whoever owns my house gets free electricity, in any amount they want to use (as a Minnesotan, I can see the value of a heated driveway & sidewalks).

    I always thought they should have done something like that when building a new nuke plant. To make nice with the neighbors, all residents within an X mile radius get electricity at a sharp discount (aka wholesale prices).

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Thursday August 09, 2012 @08:08PM (#40939997) Homepage

    Apparently people moderating don't know how dirty Chicago politics is. They make washington politics seem plain, and happy as the sun rising up on a beautiful day. Obama is a political hack, hell if people even bothered to look at how dirty his own senate campaign was, they'd wonder how he became president. Ah that's right, by "disqualifying registered voters and other opponents" [] CNN no less, not exactly a bastion of "evil right-wing news."

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday August 09, 2012 @09:21PM (#40940771)

    In fairness all the highly radioactive (= short half-life) fission by-products with half-lives less than several months (or even years) isn't really an environmental issue - you need to be careful with it initially, but it disappears on it's own in short order. And most of the rest of the high-level "waste" is actually perfectly good fuel which could be reprocessed to remove the fission-damping contaminants (or just used in a more efficient reactor to begin with). Add in the fact that all your waste remains neatly fused into your spent fuel pellets where it's easy to deal with and the waste problems are pretty minor. (if handled intelligently)

    Coal on the other hand releases all that uranium and thorium directly into the environment, whether in the smoke or the ash.

    As for meltdowns - yeah, ugly things. But offhand I can't think of a single modern reactor that has even had a major containment breach - TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima were all designed in the 60s, and fission wasn't even theorized until the late 30's, with the first experimental reactor achieving criticality in '42. That's only about 20 years of experience to go into their design, without any major catastrophes having occurred to inform their risk-management - compared to the 70 years and multiple accidents worth of paranoia going into modern reactor design. Probably the biggest problem with fission reactors is that the vast majority are still based on designs driven by weapons research (i.e. goal #1 was extraction of weaponizable byproducts). CANDU is the only in-use design family I can think of offhand that was designed from the ground up to be a power plant - and while a "meltdown" in such a reactor would be costly to repair it's highly unlikely that anything particularly radioactive would escape the core.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2012 @09:56PM (#40941097)

    You are confusing weapons production with proliferation resistance. CANDU was designed to be able to use natural uranium or very lowly enriched uranium. This makes it proliferation resistant as far as fueling it. Chernobyl was designed for dual use (power and plutonium production). For this reason it was designed to refuel online (to remove plutonium before it burns up). None of the Western civilian reactors that are currently in use were designed for weapons production. They all burn up far too much of the plutonium that they produce and they are not equipped to process it.

  • by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @12:00AM (#40941849) Homepage Journal
    The waste stored underground at the closed Humbodlt Bay reactor is ready to be inundated by sea level rise. The court is obviously right that the NRC has its head up a lower orifice granting new licenses or renewing old ones.
  • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <> on Friday August 10, 2012 @03:57AM (#40943057) Journal

    It's almost certain lifespans will be reduced significantly, though we won't necessarily be told how many and by how much.

    When asked why these results haven't been widely reported, Calidcott noted that Japanese officials are not sharing ultrasound results with foremost experts of thyroid nodules in children and accused the media of "practicing psychic numbing," saying that she doesn't understand why media outlets are choosing to ignore the nuclear fallout. []

    When the above four studies are tallied in one table, it becomes obvious that the result of the thyroid examinations of children in the “Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey” is astonishing. This is because one-third of the children had developed “ cysts.” A “cyst” is a fluid-filled sac. Cysts don’t mean there is an immediate chance of developing thyroid cancer. However, it is apparent that something extraordinary is happening inside the thyroid gland, such as inflammation or changes in cellular properties.

    Summarizing the thyroid ultrasound examination results from Japan and overseas, prevalence of “cysts” detected in children around the age of 10 is approximately 0.5-1.0%.

    The fact that 35% of Fukushima children (average age around 10) have thyroid cysts strongly suggests that these children’s thyroid glands are negatively affected by undesirable environmental factors. []

    In June [2012], 56 percent of Japanese fish catches tested by the Japanese government were contaminated with cesium-137 and -134. (Both are human-made radioactive isotopes—produced through nuclear fission—of the element cesium.)

    And 9.3 percent of the catches exceeded Japan’s official ceiling for cesium, which is 100 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg). (A becquerel is a unit of radioactivity equal to one nuclear disintegration per second.)

    The numbers show that far from dissipating with time, as government officials and scientists in Canada and elsewhere claimed they would, levels of radiation from Fukushima have stayed stubbornly high in fish. In June 2012, the average contaminated fish catch had 65 becquerels of cesium per kilo. That’s much higher than the average of five Bq/kg found in the days after the accident back in March 2011, before cesium from Fukushima had spread widely through the region’s food chain.

    In some species, radiation levels are actually higher this year than last. []

    Sevendsen et al, from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, demonstrated in 2010 that children who had been living in areas heavily contaminated with radioactive cesium have decreased pulmonary function. []

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