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October 03, 2007



It's not ****ing recycling.
It's reprocessing.

The difference being that it results in the same ammount of high level waste.

Just less low level waste.

HOWEVER only the high level waste is "hot" and important when considering waste storage

Since long term storage of nuclear waste is limited by temperature, NOT volume.



In other news, looks like Yucca Mountain may not ever happen.


Paul Dietz

If long term storage of nuclear waste is limited by temperature, the obvious solution is to NOT BURY THE STUFF. Rock acts as an insulating blanket. Put the waste in armored casks that can rest safely at or near the surface, dissipating the decay heat to environment where it can be quickly radiated to space.


What about using Accelerator-driven Sub-critical reactors to transmute waste into materials with shorter half lives? As a side benefit, this type of reactor could also use relatively abundant materials like U-238 or Thorium as fuel.


Most of the long lived waste products are fissionable material, the fissions products mostly don't have such long lifetimes, so if this sort of a fuel cycle were used, the amount of highlevel waste per unit of energy output would be lowered dratically.


The issue isn't about the technical feasibility of recycling spent fuel, breeding fertile U-238 or Th-232 into fissile fuel, or transmuting the long lived highly radioactive trans-uranics left after reprocessing the spent fuel.

The primary issue is that all of these activities can generate large amounts of easily divertible plutonium (or in the case of thorium, U-233) for manufacturing nuclear weapons and is politically undesirable from a proliferation stand point. GNEP is an attempt to put together a regulatory framework and put the technologies in place for these activities to minimize the proliferation risk.

A closed fuel cycle has the potential to significantly increase the amount of available nuclear fuel by recycling and burning what would be stored in long term repositories, such as Yucca Mountain, and creating large amounts of new fuel from fertile materials. What becomes waste in a closed loop fuel cycle would be further down the period table and much shorter lived, on the order of 100’s of years vs 1,000’s. This greatly reduces the engineering controls to store it safely and results in a much smaller amount of waste.

GNEP is also an attempt to deal with the reality that there isn’t much high grade uranium ore where it is feasible to enrich the U-235 for use in a once through cycle and waste all of that fertile U-238. I understand that with the current installed base of nuclear power, and the planned build rate for new plants world-wide, that a once through fuel cycle will only last, at best, 50-100 years.


SGD, unless I'm greatly mistaken, accelerator driven subcritical reactors can take care of all the problems you mentioned.

Kit P

This is an economic issue. The cost for reprocessing is trending down. Vitrified waste requires less packaging material and holds the fission products in a more stable form so they do not leak into the groundwater before decaying.

Paul Dietz

The cost of reprocessing still exceeds the benefit (vs. just storing spent fuel in casks at the surface). Accelerator-driven reactors are technically interesting, but economically dubious as well.

I still put my bet on seawater uranium extraction making them both non-starters for generations to come.


I found an interesting webpage that deals with the use of adsorbant materials to harvest uranium from seawater. It provides data regarding costs and quantities, if anyone is interested.


Kirk Sorensen

One of the reasons that I am so interested in thorium-fueled fluoride reactors is that it can make reprocessing much simpler than the current approach used with solid uranium-oxide fuel today. Properly done, reprocessing fluoride fuel can be so simple that it can be co-located with the plant and run in a continuous mode.

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