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Re-Processing of Nuke Waste into Plutonium Fuel?

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posted on Apr, 7 2005 @ 03:55 PM
From what I understand about nuke waste, generally, you can take power plant waste, and process it to get, Plutonium Fuel. Lots of it. Then when you run that thru the plant, the waste that you get has a half-life that are orders of magnitudes shorter.

so the positives are

  1. less waste
  2. drastically shorter lived dangerous waste
  3. more fuel

From what I understand, France does this. Because of this, they can, apparently, store their nuke waste in glass (not regular glass of course).
The US refuses to do this, citing the incredible danger of processing and refining and concentrating material than can make Plutonium bombs. The US, as a consequence, has to deal with fantastically longer radiactivity times and needs to store its waste in dilute mixtures of concrete poured into metal containers wrapped in concrete buried in a mountain.

I'm not 'sold' on anything being a fully viable alternative energy source, but nuke power is the only workable one, currently, and this is a big issue with respect to it.

So, if France making a mistake? Is the US unwise to not process it?

I suspect that the fact that the US has such long times of span to worry about the waste, that there is a side benefit of not processing, in that any storage plans have to be really good, whereas the french glass storage plans seem suspect. Anyone else?

[edit on 7-4-2005 by Nygdan]

posted on Apr, 11 2005 @ 10:43 AM
I've considered this scenario quite a bit. I'm curious as to the viability and sustainability of a cycle in which a Pebble-Bed Nuclear Reactor uses recycled Plutonium-239 from a Fast Breeder Reactor to generate power, and has its waste material fed into the same Breeder for recycling. In theory, this should produce limitless amounts of electricity at very little risk, especially if the scant amounts of unrecyclable waste products were treated accordingly and buried.

posted on Apr, 11 2005 @ 11:45 AM
Yes, your understanding is quite correct Nygdan. However I do not believe recycling the waste is a bad thing, in fact it is very efficient. Have a look at the link below for a story on French nuclear energy. There nuclear plans started on a large scale in the seventies due to oil problems in the middle east.

Nuclear production accounts for 76% of Frances electricity and Hydo power accounts for I believe around 12%, thats pretty dam (excuse the pun) impressive. They certainly are clued up when it comes to energy production.

Vitrification consists of the mixing of calcined waste with borosilicate glass grit. This is melted in a specialized furnace and cast into a mold. Borosilicate glass is considered a suitable matrix for nuclear waste because the glass has strong interatomic bonding but not a strict atomic structure. Because of this, it is able to contain a variety of different elements. Under running or standing water, radioactive products leak out at a very slow rate. In addition, the glass is resistant to structural damage from radiation.

It seems to a very safe and effective way to store waste. France has always been one step ahead when it comes to waste reduction and storage. They had already thought about good ways to do it before they started mass production of nuclear facilities, something it sems the rest of the world had not thought about as much.

posted on Apr, 13 2005 @ 03:34 PM
I am surprised at the lack of responses to this topic. SO it appears Frances method is far from suspect.

posted on Apr, 13 2005 @ 05:24 PM
they've been arguing for years what to do with nuclear waste; meanwhile it piles up under the desert in nevada. using it for fuel would be fabulous, as well, it could very well provide a solution for faster space travel, not that i'm a scientist or anything.

posted on Apr, 13 2005 @ 05:30 PM
Why not use the rods as nuclear weapons?
Supplies the military AND the civilian side of things.

posted on Apr, 18 2005 @ 02:16 AM
As I work at a nuclear plant, I asked this very question a while ago. The main reason the US does not run repro reactors is because in 1977 President Carter banned their use with an Executive Order. I do believe there is one repro in Washington State (government-run), but I don't know to what extent it is actually used.

It would be great to put all that spent fuel to good use. Turning it into megawatts is a lot more efficient than storing it underneath a mountain.

posted on Apr, 18 2005 @ 05:13 AM
I haven't looked at the recycling of nuclear waste, however the following provides some options in reducing the radioactivity of the waste:

I also believe Henry T Moray looked at/could transmutate radioactive waste into something else...couldn't find a link though.



posted on Apr, 21 2005 @ 02:42 PM
I support the French for the innovation of nuclear waste disposal. The combination of the waste into glass seems like a good idea. I believe the same technique has been examined for Yucca Mountain.

Nuclear reactors that produce plutonium (known as breeder reactors) are more efficient in energy production than the slow neutron reactors in wide use. However, unless the spent fuel is reprocessed and added back to the reactors the gain for waste with a shorter half life will not be achieved. A half life is the time it takes for a radioactive material to become half of what it was when it started.

When looking at this proposal of reprocessing radioactive waste note that "real people" have to take part in the processing. The drawbacks of this are that you will have people who have access to plutonium which is one of the most hazardous and toxic elements known to man. Also, these people will be putting themselves at risk of being exposed to radioactivity. And, every tool used to process the waste will become radioactive from fast neutrons or need to be decontaminated.

further reading
The design of fast-breeder reactors poses greater safety problems than those of other reactor types. The challenge is to develop a safe fast-breeder reactor that is economically competitive with thermal (slow-neutron) reactors, even when the lower fuel costs are accounted for. Currently the price of natural uranium and enrichment is not high enough to justify the additional costs associated with the use of breeder reactors. Thus, breeder reactors are more complex than other types of reactors and raise concerns about the proliferation of plutonium.


[edit on 21-4-2005 by Seth76]

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