Sunday, August 29, 2021

Stranded Nuclear Waste: What future does the industry have?

Open letter to local activists:

I don't doubt some of you opposed SanO when it was running...but I doubt any of these officials ever thought about how dangerous it was when it was thousands of times more dangerous than it is right now. For ~2200 Megawatts of power they gladly accepted thousands of tons of nuclear waste. Now they want to give it to someone else. And oh, does Edison love them! Nothing will keep the nuclear industry generating more waste than if SanO's waste can get shipped to someone else...the whole bottleneck for the entire industry will be broken! Dangerously overcrowded spent fuel pools used to pose that problem -- a new pool would cost a billion dollars, and they couldn't possibly justify that to any accountant or state committee. So someone invented dry casks, and that broke the spent fuel pool crowding bottleneck, and SanO and other reactors could keep generating waste: More than 10,000 dry casks worth of waste exists (probably close to 4,000 casks are now in existence). Not one nuclear power plant has ever been closed because of a waste problem -- they just put it in canisters: Cheap, thin-walled canisters that will maybe last 20 years if they're lucky, and if they are, they'll push 40, 60, 80 years...until they start to leak all around the country.

Not only do the dry casks allow them to not build additional spent fuel pools, SanO and every other PWR started replacing their steam generators and applying for (and getting) additional decades of licensed operation. And we know how that went for SanO. (Crystal River didn't have any luck with it, either.)

Helping SanO solve its waste problem helps the nuclear industry keep making more waste.

Insisting SanO's experts (such as they exist, which is basically not at all) propose a safer solution would make a lot more sense. Thicker casks. A better sea wall. An ISFSI further back and higher up from the coast.

And we are able to testify that Diablo Canyon should be closed TODAY because the waste it generates TOMORROW might be in the cask that a plane crashes into, or that a terrorist is able to get to, or that an earthquake crushes. Or that fails during transport. Or that fails 1000 years from now. Or 100,000 years from now.

SanO should be the most vocal voice telling PG&E to shut that dangerous behemoth.

SanO just wants to destroy the evidence of their failures. How worn are the main steam pipes? How close to failure were they? SoCalEd doesn't want to know. The industry doesn't want SanO to study it and find out. How close did we come to a meltdown because the reactor pressure vessels themselves have degraded and the steel isn't as strong as it used to be? SoCalEd doesn't want to know.

There are no interim storage locations and there is vigorous local opposition to every one that's ever been proposed. But it takes years to decide it won't work -- about 20 years before Yucca Mountain was discarded for scientifically sound reasons that scientists knew about years before the final decision (but "politics" are always blamed for its failure, which is a myth).

Not only is there vigorous opposition to all the interim ideas, they are dangerous and barely kick the can down the road, other than to move the waste from one person's problem to somebody else's problem. And the transport, which would presumably have to happen at least twice, is extremely dangerous, especially over America's decaying infrastructure. Moving the waste even half-safely will not be cheap. And then: 10,000 thin-walled canisters in one place is incredibly dangerous.

SanO should be investigating neutralization (as I wrote about several years ago) which destroys about 99% of the fissionable material in the waste. Neutralization (which can be done with lasers) destroys the U-235 and Pu-239, which would make the nuclear industry cry (proving it's a good thing!) because they want to REPROCESS all that waste -- so any interim waste site won't be an interim waste site for long. It is absolutely planned to become a reprocessing center at some point in the future. It is NOT a stopping point between the reactors and a permanent repository, it's just being sold to the public as that. No way is that the real plan. No way at all.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Previous related essays:

Nuclear wast management through the years:

Can spent nuclear fuel be transported?

What is spent fuel neutralization and why is it the best solution?

External link:
New Mexico’s nuclear rush
A massive nuclear waste site near Carlsbad is seemingly on a fast track. Can the company behind it be trusted?
By Sammy Feldblum and Tovah Strong|February 3, 2021