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Current Methods of Nuclear Waste Disposal. By: Chris Neighbor. Nuclear Overview. Produces 806.2 billion kWh, 19.6% of US electricity-2008 Reference to Hidekel’s previous presentation Neutron bombardment of U-235

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nuclear overview
Nuclear Overview
  • Produces 806.2 billion kWh, 19.6% of US electricity-2008
  • Reference to Hidekel’s previous presentation
  • Neutron bombardment of U-235
  • A tax of 0.1cent is paid per kWh of energy generated to deal with waste
  • Currently the US has approximately 84,000 metric tons of fuel rods as waste


  • High-level waste-Spent fuel rods are “hot” when taken out of the reactor
    • Emit beta and gamma radiation
  • They are then temporarily stored in onsite pools while some of the radioactive elements with shorter half lives decay
    • Steel and concrete lined
  • Other elements also have extremely long half lives posing the need to securely store for centuries or even millennia

Require water tight, geologically stable environment for storage

  • Stored for thousands of years
  • After ten years of decay a person 1 meter away from a fuel assembly would receive a dose of 20,000 rems, 5,000 can cause instant incapacition
  • Radiation causes

Low-level waste

    • Includes rubble and steelwork from decommissioning, rubber gloves, protective clothing
    • Generally placed in shallow burial
    • Should decay to nonhazardous levels in 10-50 years
the politics of nuclear
The Politics of Nuclear
  • Dr. Steven Chu the new US Secretary of Energy when asked what his top three strategies were for moving forward with nuclear energy he stated :
    • Accelerate the federal loan guarantee program to restart nuclear power in the US.
    • Develop a long-range plan for waste disposal
    • Research the potential of reprocessing to greatly reduce the amount and lifetime of the waste.
  • Since 1987 Yucca Mountain was the proposed site for nuclear waste storage
    • In 2002 George W. Bush approved the storage of radioactive waste in the Yucca Mountain Repository, the State of Nevada vetoed the facility, however it was overruled by both houses.
    • Planned to open in 2010
    • This planned construction and storage has been eliminated in 2009 under the Obama administration "while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal.”
  • Terrorist target
storage let s just bury it
Storage-Let’s just bury it
  • Location, Location, Location
  • Yucca- deep repository
  • Spent fuel pools


    • by road to railhead, ships with strengthened hulls and watertight subdivisions
  • Containers
    • Watertight, extensive testing- train wreck
  • The waste is vitrified in a borosilicate
  • Terrorist Target
  • Environmental Concerns
    • Contamination of groundwater
  • Residential Health Concern
  • Hanford- one of the first sites
    • Learning curve for waste disposal
    • 204,000m3 of high level radioactive waste
    • Spent fuel wasn’t properly stored and leaked into the groundwater, near Columbia river
    • Is one of the largest environmental cleanup sites
    • Spent nuclear fuel stored underwater and uncapped in Hanford's K-East Basin
reprocessing spent fuel
Reprocessing Spent Fuel
  • France’s current program
  • Waste could potentially be lowered by 97%
  • Carter Ban on reprocessing to prevent proliferation
    • Proliferation is the unlawful diversion of fissile material for military purposes in particular Pu-239
  • Uranium supply market
  • US has typically turned to storage as the method of choice for dealing with nuclear waste
  • The Obama administration
  • Ionizing radiation releases concentrated amounts of energy which can break the bonds of biological molecules, can cause cell death, or mitotic inhibition. This can cause death in the case of bone marrow, and the lining of the GI tract. It also causes distortion of DNA.