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Does Global Warming Trump Nuclear Waste?

Does Global Warming Trump Nuclear Waste?

Postby cacofonix » Mon Jun 23, 2008 4:44 pm

As president, John McCain would want to see the United States build its first nuclear power plant in three decades. And then he wants to see us build 44 more in the next three decades.

It's part of the answer, the Republican candidate says, to the challenge of producing electricity without causing global warming. Nuclear power plants, once the uranium is mined and processed, produce no carbon dioxide.

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Re: Does Global Warming Trump Nuclear Waste?

Postby DR Johansen » Wed Jul 23, 2008 7:24 am

John McCain has made a misstatement. The US has build MANY nuclear reactors in the past three decades. Indeed, Congress is pondering mandating many more of them. But most folks don't think about them because they are floating out in ships. And the problems with all of them are twofold. First, the silly designs we use produce long term wastes that are difficult to dispose of. Second, they all rely on a tiny part of natural Uranium that is running out ALMOST as fast as petroleum.

But 5 decades ago a solution to both was developed and then dropped. Why was it dropped do you ask? Because it competed with the darling of the AEC at the time, Plutonium breediong fast reactors.

The solution of which I speak is called a molten salt reactor. NO.. NOT a liquid sodium reactor, a molten SALT reactor. The reactor is inherentley safe, and slowly breeds just enough fuel to keep itself fed using all of the much more aboundant Thorium, resulting in avalable resources good for millenia.
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Re: Does Global Warming Trump Nuclear Waste?

Postby jomobe » Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:41 am

Only if you want to trade one danger for another. The entire lifecycle chain from extraction of raw material (uranium) to disposal of spent fuels is hazardous at best.

With the newer reactor technologies (fast reactors), electrical generation and consummation of nuclear fuels is inhereintly safer than the most popular technology (water cooled & breeder) but not as available for funding because they consume the elements that are used for war and destruction. But just as devastating to human kind are the mining and milling processes that are employed and the industry practices that endanger entire geographic regions (Reference Gallup New Mexico and the Rio Puerco disaster that has damned the American Navajo's lands). Even with the >85% consumtion of raw materials which better than quadruples the efficiency of slow reactors, the waste products' half-lives are still >500 years. Mankind can not guarantee the safety of the caldera at Yellowstone for the next 500 years any more than we can change the earth's orbit.

With human nature and it's frailties being what they are, commercialized nucleaer energy truly is the MOST dangerous form of power generation when expressed in terms of potential environmental and societal damage.

In theory, everything is practical. In application, we humans just mess it all up.
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Re: Does Global Warming Trump Nuclear Waste?

Postby DR Johansen » Fri Dec 04, 2009 2:30 am

I guess I left this a bit long without a reply!

The MSR I mentioned in my prior post has only short lived wastes, less than 50y half-lives, typically. All the long lived products are kept in the reactor melt to be consumed. Thus, the radiation output from stored wastes will be lower than the radiation from typical Uranium ore is less that a few hundred years.

So wastes from nuclear power need NOT be a burdensome issue!
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