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Power Government United States

DOE Launches Nuclear Waste Disposal Initiative (energy.gov) 143

mdsolar writes: The Department of Energy is formally launching its initiative aimed at establishing a disposal site for spent nuclear fuel. The department said Monday that it is accepting input on the disposal plan, which centers on finding at least one place to store spent fuel, with the consent of the local community. Officials are also planning forums throughout 2016 to inform a more concrete plan for establishing a disposal site. It's a key step toward rolling out what the Obama administration thinks is the best way forward for nuclear waste disposal. It stands in stark contrast to the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, which was designated by Congress to be the country's main waste site, but which the Obama administration canceled amid strong local and state opposition to it.
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DOE Launches Nuclear Waste Disposal Initiative

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  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:30PM (#51166789)

    Since Colossus isn't in service anymore, how about using its location?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The place we learned the term NIMBY.... "Not In My Back Yard"

    • Somebody has a really large, empty, and desolate yard...

    • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @04:06PM (#51167037)
      More specifically, "Not in Former Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid's Backyard" - Obama still owes him big time for pinching out Obamacare.
      • And isn't it funny now that Reid has announced his retirement, that DoE is getting off their ass and working the problem again. Let me guess, they'll be announcing the decision to dispose of it in Nevada, roughly 72 hours after Reid has cleared out the minority leader office suite and Chuck Schumer has moved in?

    • "The place we learned the term NIMBY...."

      Yucca Mountain was chosen not just because of its geological stability and 10cm annual rainfall, but because there is no town anywhere near it for as far as they eye can see, which from the top of a Nevada ridge is a long way. In fact, it is located inside the Nevada Test Site, constituting Area 25 of the most well-guarded spot in the nation.

      I'm hoping that Trump has the imagination to not just open this fully completed storage facility, but to start building a recyc

      • Trump will save us and restore sanity to this topsy-turvy world.... wait what? The orange angry dufus guy?

      • Rather interesting that Senator Reid had no problem with the DoE spending $90+ billion to build the place in his state, but all of a sudden pitches a fit when it's complete and time to start moving waste there.

        A couple construction jobs provided to tunnel that out and pour in the concrete?

    • I'd let you put it in my backyard if you let me re-refine and sell it back to you for your next gen reactors.

      Nuclear fuel is recyclable if you have the right reactors.

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      The DOE's own 1982 Nuclear Waste policy Act reported that the Yucca Mountain's geology is "inappropriate to contain nuclear waste". The most appropriate way to move the Nuclear Industry forward is to develop a geologically stable containment facility for radionuclide inside a granite mountain as opposed to a pumice mountain like Yucca.

      The destination of the facility is important because an infrastructure plan to move 70,000 tons of plutonium (and other things) to that facility will be significantly more ex

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        The DOE's own 1982 Nuclear Waste policy Act reported that the Yucca Mountain's geology is "inappropriate to contain nuclear waste"

        Do you have any evidence of that claim? Everything I've found points to the contrary.

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          The DOE's own 1982 Nuclear Waste policy Act reported that the Yucca Mountain's geology is "inappropriate to contain nuclear waste"

          Do you have any evidence of that claim? Everything I've found points to the contrary.

          You will have to look at the earlier revisions as opposed to the amended Act, especially if you are reading it online where the emphasis changed to using containment devices. I should have said 'original' document. Thanks for pointing that out.

          • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

            I understood that it wasn't the original text shown on places like Wikipedia because they talked about the changes made in '87. I checked a few more sources, but it was more of the same. I'm not trying to dispute your claim, just find out for my own edification if the choice was made for political or logical reasons.

            • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

              I'm am having the same problem, it is very difficult to find copies of the original act. This book [wiley.com] makes comparison between versions of the original bill. If I can dig it out of my archive I will post what I can.

              You triggered an interesting journey, in my attempts to find the online references to the original Bill, it showed that the Bill poses challenges to the very sovereignty of the states and relegating them to the same role as a citizen. You question has uncovered some interesting things that I wasn't

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Except that this time, it's Obama's idea?

    • More like Harry Reid. Of course the most powerful democrat in the senate would cancel a perfectly good repository site and put the nation at risk.

      • $2 says that when DoE announces the site for the new storage facility, it will still be in Nevada, and they'll announce it in 2017 after Harry Reid has cleaned out his office, and a now very junior Senator has moved in.

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        Why would Harry Reid care? He is quite shielded from the environment he helps create.

  • by d34thm0nk3y ( 653414 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:36PM (#51166831)
    I know it's fun to blame everything on Obama but the cancellation of the Yucca Mtn project was caused by the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, passed on April 14, 2011.

    Approved by Congress, Cancelled by Congress.
    • Signed into law by Obama. He does have a veto, and he's not afraid to use it for things he gives a damn about...

    • And who ran the Senate in 2011? Oh, that's right, the senior Senator from the Great State of Nevada.

      Yucca Mountain was never going to happen with Harry Reid in charge, so I'm willing to bet that Obama traded that for advancing something else he wanted to move. Shitty policy, but smart politics, if you ask me.

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Do you think it would have happened without him? Wikipedia quote....During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to abandon the Yucca Mountain project. As a result, Senator Reid moved the Nevada primary to help Obama's campaign

  • So how much of the "waste" is just spent fuel that can be reprocessed vs irradiated materials and other construction trash and whatnot? The spent fuel could quickly turn into valuable commodity if we had a nuclear power renaissance in this nation. Right?

    • Re:Waste or fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:54PM (#51166951) Homepage

      > So how much of the "waste" is just spent fuel that can be reprocessed vs irradiated materials and other construction trash and whatnot

      It depends on the type of reactor. The MAGNOX and CANDUs have better neutron economy, so you can burn all sorts of mixes that won't burn in a typical US or French reactor. That said, France is the #1 reprocessed, and the UK and Canada are both involved too (along with Russia and Japan).

      In the best-case scenarios, you can get the equivalent of 30% recovery - that is, you can get enough fuel from the waste to cover 30% of what you burned to get that waste. It's not insignificant, but it certainly doesn't eliminate the waste problem, in spite of what you might have heard. The real advantage is that it tends to isolate the nastier bits, which means that part can be stored more easily while you can put the larger-in-volume-but-less-nasty stuff somewhere less intensive.

      As always the only real problem is cost. Reprocessed fuel costs much more than just digging up new stuff from the ground. As reactors can't really compete on the market right now even with the current fuel glut forcing prices down, they can't even think about used reprocessed fuel. Again, that depends on the cycle, at least some of the fuel being used here in Canada is reprocessed.

      The good news is that the good parts don't burn off quickly, so if there is a need for reprocessed fuel, you can always go and get it from storage. Of course, it will be a very cold day in hell before the economics are in your favor, given the CAPEX on wind and solar for fiscal '16.

      • Gah, I wish /. had "edit". I forgot to mention that the #1 output from the reprocessing is plutonium. You can mix that into your fuel mix in some reactors, and this is common in France and the UK for instance, but it is a proliferation issue. This is why the US and fSovs offered to reprocess fuel for other countries, even after the US decided not to reprocess its own.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In the best-case scenarios, you can get the equivalent of 30% recovery - that is, you can get enough fuel from the waste to cover 30% of what you burned to get that waste. It's not insignificant, but it certainly doesn't eliminate the waste problem, in spite of what you might have heard.

        Where exactly did your 30% number come from? Conventional nuclear extracts less than 1% of the energy content of uranium, and fluid fueled reactors can extract almost 100% of the remainder in that "spent" fuel. That is the best-case scenario, and it is achievable with molten salt reactors. Using MSRs essentially eliminates the waste issue, and even the concerning isotopes are easily isolated and have uses. The actual waste produced by an MSR is vanishingly small.

        To get anywhere near your 30% number wou

      • All of which is junk compared to the gen IV reactors that can burn up 95% of the waste, as opposed to only 30%. Keep in mind that 100,000 tonnes would simply be reduced to 70,000 tonnes, and this would still require many 1000's of years for decay. OTOH, with Trans Atomic's or Flibe's reactors, they would reduce this to 5,000 tonnes and this would require less than 200 years to become safe.
    • "So how much of the "waste" is just spent fuel that can be reprocessed vs irradiated materials and other construction trash and whatnot?"

      It would all be spent power-plant rods. There is already a designated burial site for trashed medical equipment, industrial gloves and other non-recycleable radioactive waste. And guess what - it's Area 4 of the same Nevada Test Site. Such waste decays by itself in a relatively short time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is no way they will find another site as safe or with less special interests to contend with.
    This just political talk with chance of real action.

    • Rocket technology has advanced far enough at this point that relatively simple and cheap rockets could be used to drop spent fuel rods on the Moon. This converts the problem from waste disposal to long term warehousing since eventually someone will make use of the material.

      I think its time to do a cost and risk comparison study between Yucca Mtn and lunar storage. Lunar storage has the obvious risk associated with a launch failure, but it would be possible to develop abort procedures that would minimize th

    • Actually, it was NEVER the best site. best site was in west texas close to where the bushes live.
      However, Yucca is already built and is more than safe enough. As such, it should be used, but only after we have burned up the majority of this waste. IOW, we should not be burying 100,000 tonnes, but 5,000 tonnes. Besides, it is criminal to have dug up this energy and now to just throw it away by burying it again. that would be sad.
    • Studies of the Yucca mountain hydrology [sciencedirect.com] revealed that the passage cl-36 from atmospheric nuclear testing took less that 50 years in ground water through Yucca mountain so the reality of Yucca is it is inappropriate to contain *any* kind of radioactive products. Yucca is pumice and volcanic ash, you *need* granite for a serious facility. The proposed Swedish facility [geoprac.net] is better designed than Yucca and is a good template for the U.S to use when it finds a suitable granite mountain, like the Rocky mountains,
      • Yucca is pumice and volcanic ash, you *need* granite for a serious facility.

        I don't know the details of Yucca, nor do I care (I'm not an American and don't see any need to go to America to steal their money), but I'll take your word for it that it's a crap site. Worst of the worst.

        What you want from a waste storage facility is low permeability of the ground to water viz, for a set bit of geometry and pressure difference, you only get a low flow of water through the unit you're considering. Granites can be

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          What you want from a waste storage facility is low permeability of the ground to water viz, for a set bit of geometry and pressure difference, you only get a low flow of water through the unit you're considering. Granites can be low permeability - if they're not fractured or heavily corroded.

          Thanks for those details. I see what you mean about fracturing however it's really interesting what you say about the corrosion of the granite. What corrodes it? Does the granite become a porous structure?

          I note that the description of the FINNISH waste repository has the repository being dug into granite, but the waste being buried in (bentonite) clay within the segments of the mine.

          Exactly, I read about that bit too. IIRC, the way the bentonite clay clumps and holds the water in place was why it was selected. Is the un-fractured low permeable granite selected for if the water is also under pressure?

          I'd welcome any specific expertise in geology you have on the subject RockDoctor! (g

          • Granite in general is corroded by water - I'll leave aside the faults and fractures for the moment.

            Intense weathering can reduce granite to essentially a powder of (bleached) micas and quartz grains in a mush of kaolinite clays. In tropical soils, this may take millions of years, but following the chemists rule of thumb (10degC increases in temperature doubles reaction rates) and the fact that many granites generate large fluxes of hot (300-500degC) water as they cool, you won't be surprised to learn that

            • by MrKaos ( 858439 )
              That's actually one of the best descriptions of the problems facing a Nuclear Waste repository problem I've read. Thank you for taking the time to post it!

              Which is why I have for decades posited that the ideal place for the UK's HLW waste is in the London Clay (a thick, low permeability claystone), with the entrance through the Houses of Parliament.

              Genius!

              I believe that America (and Sweden, and Finland) have also encountered political problems with their various waste repositories.

              Can I presume from your pseudonym that you are a professional geologist RockDoctor? Have you seen this article [abc.net.au] from an Australian science show? Dr Birch's research seems to be cited a few times, it may interest you as it looks like it may lead to an interesting way to solve this waste issue.

              • Your assumption is correct (though I adopted the NAME before I realised how presumptuous it is ; my nickname at the time was "Rockdoctor", but I have never held a PhD (Earned), and I'm pretty unlikely to get one, Earned or Honorary.) ; I earn my crust from looking at rocks.

                [Reads AU link] Flash - have to read the transcript.Narrator describes "gossan", Briefly

                Since the 1600s, people (who would now be called geologists) have been describing how the effects of near-surface weathering can concentrate (or dis

  • by unixcorn ( 120825 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:51PM (#51166933)

    Yucca Mountain cost more than $96B dollars so far. I just read an article stating that the spent nuclear fuel is fine where it is, cooling in the ponds local to the reactors. So which is it? Do we need to spend another $96B, or more, and then not use that facility too? Is shipping nuclear waste to some repository far away safe and cost effective?

    • Financially, it is expensive to continue to store the fuel local to the reactors, though safe.

      The utility companies were told that they would have a place to store the fuel in exchange for a tax assessed per kWh for decades. When that money didn't materialize in an actual place to store fuel, the utilities sued the federal government. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04... [nytimes.com]

      Then again the entire idea of "nuclear waste" boils down to politics and general misunderstanding of nuclear engineering in the population (b

    • Fed gov't can't actually do anything anymore. Any NIMBY idiot can multiply a project's cost by 10 by whining about his feelings to a gutless judiciary. Useful idiots at newspapers eat up disingenuous arguments (spotted owl! sacred native landmarks!) that originate from financially interested groups, then write simplistic good-vs-evil propaganda pieces that tie the hands even the good legislators.

      Could you imagine building an interstate highway system now? Every foot is a litigable affront to someone's feeli

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        Let's have a look at the NIMBY argument that is so often cited as a cause of obstructing the placement of Nuclear facilities.

        Placement of Nuclear facilities is governed by a Suitability Criteria that is an act of law. [nrc.gov]

        Environmental concerns are addressed in Section C.9 [nrc.gov] so it's pretty ridiculous to think that greenpeace, hippys in combi vans, NIMBYS or any one else for that matter have any influence at in the placement of these facilities.

        When you consider there has been a bunch of GenIII reactors alre [nrc.gov]

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        Yucca Mountain was a no-brainer when we started looking into it and it's a no-brainer now. Those that oppose it are either (1) useful idiots, (2) financially interested in competing energy generation methods, or (3) actively and purposefully attempting to weaken or destroy the US.

        So how do you apply your reasoning to the D.O.E who ruled it inappropriate to contain nuclear waste? Let's look at your points:

        (1) useful idiots

        Which Wikipedia defines as In political jargon, useful idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause., do you know who you are serving?

        (2) financially interested in competing energy generation methods

        You really don't know who is drinking who's milkshake do you? I suggest you read the 2005 Energy Act, Sec 638 onwards.

        (3) actively and purposefully attempting to weaken or destroy the US.

        Studies of Yucc [sciencedirect.com]

    • We should use the facility that has been built, instead of letting one lone-wolf senator [wsj.com] prevent that from happening. Yes, a national repository would be much, much safer than the status quo.

      The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 [wikipedia.org] was passed to create a national program to dispose of nuclear fuel safely. The bill arranged for utility companies to pay for the development of such a site, which technically was a fee payed for by customers, not taxpayers (though that's really not much of a difference). Congress

      • You can quickly identify a disingenuous argument when the arguer doesn't offer a practical alternative. Yucca Mountain arguments sound like this to me:

        "We shouldn't use Yucca Mountain"

        "What should we do instead"

        "Feed the waste to unicorns--they'll turn it into poop rainbows!"

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          "We shouldn't use Yucca Mountain"

          "What should we do instead"

          Build a geologically sound facility in granite that is in line with the DOE's 'defense in depth' design philosophy. If politics wasn't a factor in the first place we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. Politics placed the facility at Yucca, not science.

    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      Yucca Mountain cost more than $96B dollars so far. I just read an article stating that the spent nuclear fuel is fine where it is, cooling in the ponds local to the reactors. So which is it? Do we need to spend another $96B, or more, and then not use that facility too? Is shipping nuclear waste to some repository far away safe and cost effective?

      That's the wrong question. We don't have a centralized depository because that was planned to be built in Nevada, and Senator Harry Reid, arguably one of the most powerful senators, must answer to the Nevada NIMBY voters.

      On the other hand, we have nuclear power plants in 30 states, all with senators who have to answer to those NIMBY interests who wanted to relocate the waste. So what we got was a big fight, a lot of money spent, and the end result of nothing.

      It's fairly obvious why we tried to do some

    • If we spent 1-2B, we could have several new fission reactors that would burn up 95% of the waste. In addition, it would allow the power companies to replace the old reactors, with a larger set of smaller reactors that can not fail. In addition, the power companies could make money while providing the 24x7 power addition that is needed to supplement AE and replace all of the coal plants quickly.
  • Closing that place - it was a total lie and waste of money lining contractors pockets.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Exaclty. Those Republicans designed it to poison the ground water in all of California. All of California. It would have killed millions. Killed millions.

  • by Jodka ( 520060 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:54PM (#51166957)

    from the ./ summary:

    the Obama administration canceled amid strong local and state opposition to it.

    from the Wall Street Journal [wsj.com]:

    The Reid-Obama Bargain: Harry shut down the Senate because Barack shut down the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada... Mr. Reid’s admirers seem to think Mr. Reid is their champion, but the reason he has carried so much water for Mr. Obama isn’t liberal ideals. It’s the result of a crude political bargain in which Mr. Reid agreed to do the President’s dirty work on Capitol Hill if Mr. Obama blocked the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

  • One of the criteria for a storage facility is that it be stable for thousands of years. Mountains are mostly created at the unstable boundary between colliding tectonic plates.

    So why are mountains considered a good place to store high-level nuclear waste?

    • This is a holding pattern proposal. These won't be permanent storage sites.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yucca had support when it was proposed. It had support when it was being built. When they did not pay off all the people who had a lever to cancel it, THEN it became unpopular. A lot of the Billions spent, were to grease locals. When Harry wanted too much grease, the wheels stopped. Yucca mountain was chosen because it is as good a place as you can find in the USA to put this stuff.
    There is no place else that is going to have better stability and other attributes than Yucca. This is just an excuse to p

  • The first facility is supposed to deal with waste from decommissioned plants. California will have a bunch, including Humboldt Bay, where sea level rise will inundated the current storage scheme. California seems like the best place for the first nuclear waste dump.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't referring to "spent nuclear fuel" (at least in the US) analogous to using a $100 bill to buy a soda at a gas station and then discarding the change as "spent"?

    • Isn't referring to "spent nuclear fuel" (at least in the US) analogous to using a $100 bill to buy a soda at a gas station and then discarding the change as "spent"?

      That's actually a pretty good analogy, except that you would be buying one of those $5 cans of hotel soda. Recycling rather than dumping would let us make use of the other $95.

  • They come up with the policy, make them live with it.
  • Put it, say, on the far side of the moon.
    • Yes but I don't think Martin Landau or Barbara Bain will be around for the sequel.

    • Even if this could be done inexpensively, you know people would be screaming about it. People went crazy a few years ago when NASA smashed a probe into the moon to observe the debris cloud. Littering on the moon they said. Ruining the landscape.
      • Just wait until someone is able to launch a 3d printer onto the moon and program it to print out the creator's face from the regolith...

  • Just put it somewhere in coal country. You don't even need to dig, just pour it right into the local wells. The locals won't mind, they will fiercely defend you so long as you employ them to do it.

    • Dump the stuff into the NY sewers.... If I am correct, we will see crime fighters inside of 20 years.

  • Bury it in a subduction zone and let the mantle swallow it?

  • Keep Yucca mtn.
    Instead, develop the Gen IV reactors and burn up the majority of the nuke waste. 95% of it can be used up. Right now, we have around 100,000 TONNES of this. By simply using safely in a gen IV reactor, we will have less than 5000 tonnes which will be safe within 200 years. As such, Nevada should not grip about this. Yucca mountain can hold that amount of waste easily, esp. if we vitrify it.
  • Imagine a whole community of people!
    Amazing, wonderful people! I can see them now.
    Welcome to TBA, where the proud stewards of America's spent nuclear fuel keep watch over the future.

    Amazingly, these people understand the principles of ionizing radiation, the log scale, the inverse square law, how half-life directly and inversely proportional to danger for a given mass of material. They are aware of the relatively small mass and storage volume that decayed spent nuclear fuel uses. They know that once spent

  • Not in my backyard may keep any repository from becoming a reality.

    The need is great and while this part of Nevada has issues they are less troubling
    than other choices.

    Area 51 is not a good choice. The visitors that come and go in the middle of the night might
    visit another location.

    The single largest risk is water and high desert is a good place to avoid or manage water.

    Large volume low level waste might qualify for canyon fill (land fill) can be paved over and sealed with concrete after limiting groundwat

  • The perfect location.

    It's already experience the pilot storage test with great success and no one is left to complain.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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