My apologies for being US-centric today, but I wanted to quickly bring your attention to this piece by an interesting blogger, drawing on material from 2 professionals.
Apart from the F-word and misleading conflation of reactors with bombs, inexorable baby-mutating 10,000 year waste is the most tired trump card whipped out by institutional environmentalists, at least in the forums I’ve been perusing of late. (The implied solution is to abandon nuclear. What the hell sense does that make? With 60-odd years worth of extant “waste”, we obviously need a technological solution, not anti-technology ideology.)
As detailed, the issue of spent nuclear fuel has become an exaggerated cost burden, one of many that turns the price tag of nuclear into yet another smug objection, at least in the US. Well, however fundamentally arbitrary, that is a financial burden. I’m more concerned about the entirely non-arbitrary climate burden of every additional year that we put off starting the big transition.
Each gigawatt-year of nuclear electricity produces approximately 20 tons of waste (note 20 tons x 40 years x 100 reactors = 80,000 MTHM: Dave, will you check my math?). Given the weight of these 20 tons, the volume is one-third the size of a reactor core: a countable number. One gigawatt-year of coal electricity produces 1,000,000 tons of CO2 (note: 1M tons x 40 years x 100 gigawatts = 4 billion tons of CO2; there are approximately 5 milligrams of CO2 in 12oz can of soda; therefore, we would need to bury 200,000 cans of soda to sequester 1 ton of CO2, i.e., 800 trillion cans of soda; Dave, please check my math). I exaggerate to make the point that Carbon Capture and Storage is a myth and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project is a reality. Finally, climate change is a reality, Hurricane Sandies don’t care whether you believe in climate change: they will flood the New York subway whether you believe in climate change or not. The issue is whether it is easier to manage spent nuclear fuel or CO2. What do you think?
~ Geoffrey Rothwell
It is interesting that he is so specific about the regulations involved, as this mirrors the first vital step which we need to achieve in Australia, namely the repeal of the prohibitive sections of the EPBC Act and the ARPANS Act (what was I saying about arbitrary regulations?). Apart from the AGW-related urgency, Australia, as a supporter of the NPT and a world leader in nuclear safety, should be leading by example in our region, not keeping our head in the sand.