Part IV of Deep Isolation Series of interviews: Temporary Waste Storage Costs Keep Rising In this episode, James Taylor speaks about the long term costs of temporarily storing nuclear waste above ground.
- Aug 6, 2020 7:32 am GMTAug 6, 2020 7:24 am GMT
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Please have a look at this discussion of possible ways to deal with nuclear waste. The latest speaker is James Taylor (no- not that James Taylor!), General Manager of the environmental division of Bechtel's Nuclear, Security, & Environmental global business unit.
Mr. Taylor emphasizes that for the nuclear industry to move forward, they must solve this “back-end” problem, i.e long term management of nuclear waste. In his words about the nuclear industry: “It´s dying”.
There aren´t a lot of good long term options for managing this most hazardous of hazardous wastes. At this stage, deep geologic isolation may be the best alternative, among many far worse ones, including Yucca mountain and doing nothing, as the nuclear industry and the NRC has so far done. Indeed, many in the nuclear industry seem to think it is not a problem or, at least, not their problem.
This is the World Nuclear Association in February, 2020:
- Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy-producing technology that takes full responsibility for all its waste and fully costs this into the product.
- Not true. Quite the contrary. The nuclear industry has managed to shift the responsibility to the NRC (the US Government). In the meantime, the public is not fooled. As the speaker says of the industry, "it´s dying."
- The amount of waste generated by nuclear power is very small relative to other thermal electricity generation technologies.
- About half a million tons of high level waste, about 1% of which is plutonium, spread across the country, is plenty.
- Used nuclear fuel may be treated as a resource or simply as waste.
- No one is even pretending that this fuel is a resource anymore. The US government has a separate stockpile of plutonium that is enough for all of its purposes for a very long time.
- Nuclear waste is neither particularly hazardous nor hard to manage relative to other toxic industrial waste.
- This is absurd. See Part 1 of this series. Many billions of dollars later, it is still far from managed in any responsible way.
- Safe methods for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste are technically proven; the international consensus is that geological disposal is the best option.
- Not so. There are disposal methods, e.g. Yucca Mountain that have been proven to not be the solution. Others are under investigation.
But it needs a solution.
At the moment the US government pays about $800 million per year to store waste from civilian nuclear facilities. That number is increasing rapidly. It contributes to the growing and understandable impatience on the part of taxpayers with storing this material at more than 70 aboveground sites across the country. It is expensive and not without risk.
Deep Isolation Inc. is making progress toward the goal of deep geologic isolation of nuclear waste in deep horizontal boreholes. They are embarking on a partnership with NAC International Inc. to design, manufacture and supply the canisters that will be used to safely store and dispose of nuclear waste in this way. But, by their own admission, they are still quite far from the goal of implementing their designs.
None of the four speakers so far in this series concludes, at least for now, that this is the answer to the problem. They do, however, support further development of the concept that may lead to a commitment to this solution.