Recycle what, now?

The issue of how to deal with radioactive waste resulting from nuclear power production becomes twice as important as Southern Nuclear/Georgia Power prepare to build two new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro. God help us, we’re taking advice on how to deal with the waste from France, according to Walter Jones:

Friday, representatives from France and French firms met with American industry executives and academics at Georgia Tech where the discussion centered on how recycling in that country reduces nuclear waste by more than 95 percent.

“If our friends at Vogtle are as successful as we believe they will be — there’s a lot of confidence in the team that is out there in the field — that will help prime the pump for the next wave (of reactor development),” said David Blee, executive director of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council.

France’s 58 reactors compose the second-largest “fleet” in the world behind the United States, and nuclear power generates the majority of electricity used there while also exporting it to neighboring countries. Yet, its stockpile of nuclear waste is a fraction of what’s awaiting permanent, underground disposal here.

Carter-era federal regs prevent nuclear fuel reprocessing in the United States of Awesome America. Reprocessing nuke waste for fuel has a proponent on the Public Service Commission:

Tim Echols, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, said Americans began to seriously recycle household garbage in the 1980s and it should be doing the same with spent reactor fuel.

Echols has opined widely and brought media attention to what he considers the need to begin reprocessing.

Dealing with nuclear waste is becoming critical at Vogtle because their current storage capacities will run out by 2014 and the federal government’s scheme plan to bury nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been cancelled.

Because the federal government’s long-range plan for a national geologic repository for such waste has stalled, Vogtle is following in the footsteps of many other nuclear plants by building above-ground “dry cask” storage sites that can accommodate larger volumes of nuclear waste for longer periods.

During a meeting last month with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission permitting officials, the company projected it could fill about 110 such casks by 2035 solely with wastes from the existing units 1 and 2.

Although two new units — 3 and 4 — are planned at the site and in the permitting stage, the current plan is to build cask storage for existing units only, Thomas said.

17 comments

  1. Cassandra says:

    Your enemies don’t always put you in the swamp – Liberal anti-nuke weenies,
    And your friends don’t always get you out of the swamp – Social conservatives and RINO’s….

  2. Calypso says:

    I’m not an Echols fan, but I like what he says on the subject. I’m not a scholar on the topic either, but re-processing spent nuclear waste for more fuel seems the way to go.

  3. Max Power says:

    More than 70% of France’s electricity comes from nuclear power. If 70% of America’s power came from nukes we would all be better off, but nobody wants to make the investment.

  4. ZazaPachulia says:

    Echols and the French are right. The relic from the Carter administration that prevents us from recycling and reusing spent nuclear fuel is an albatross.

    I’ve heard AREVA leaders speak on this very subject. The U.S. is the only nuclear country that does not recycle and reuse spent fuel rods. Recycling and reusing nuclear fuel is several orders of magnitude safer (and less expensive) than storing spent fuel. AREVA is doing this type of work all over the world and they have built up their American operations in recent years. They’re not recycling here yet, but French experts are already all over our civilian reactors.

    Pursuing nuclear recycling and reuse is a no-brainer, which probably means Congress will posture a great deal before failing to overturn the ban.

    And while we all have certain opinions of the French, they are huge supporters of nuclear power–unlike those irrational Germans.

  5. fuzzypeach777 says:

    To add insult to injury, Georgia Power says they will close Plant Harllee Branch because of EPA regulations for coal burning plants. Harllee Branch is too old for the modifications required, so it will be shut down. Global warming is bad, K?

    But hey, earthquakes only happen in Japan…and Oklahoma. Right…? And land rendered uninhabitable for 10,000 years is no problem.

    Right…?

  6. John Williamson says:

    Georgia’s growth depends on available energy and nuclear power plays a significant role. Concerns about safety and nuclear waste management could possibly stall Georgia’s future progress in energy development. Tim Echols’ two recent forums at Georgia Tech have explored current safety programs and the nuclear waste issue: the federal government’s failure to accept its lawful responsibility for storing it and currently available solutions such as recycling. Mr. Echols should be commended for bringing multiple stakeholders (including the NRC) together in educational and public forums from which educated public policy can be formulated.

  7. Jack Spencer says:

    Commissioner Echols is correct in his assessment that the U.S. broadly, and Georgia specifically would be well served by a policy that allowed for additional processing of used nuclear fuel—often referred to as recycling or reprocessing. As Mr. Echols has argued and was articulated during the conference, processing used nuclear fuel has two primary benefits. First, it allows the nuclear industry to extract additional energy value from the used fuel—only about 5 percent of the actual energy of nuclear fuel is used when that fuel is removed from the reactor. Secondly, it allows for more flexibility in waste disposal since processing used fuel can drastically reduce the amount of high level waste—the stuff that needs disposed of in a place like Yucca Mountain—associated with nuclear power. But what makes Commissioner Echols’ approach different is that he has argued for a market based plan that would assign value to nuclear waste.

    As opposed to the current strategy, where the federal government is responsible for nuclear waste management, Mr. Echols has suggested that nuclear waste producers take on some responsibility. Under the current system, nuclear waste producers pay a fee to the federal government for waste disposal. However, that money is simply wasted because Washington has never provided any nuclear waste disposal services. Neither the nation nor Georgia gets any value for that money. Once waste producers were responsible for waste management, they would pay companies, not Washington, for specific waste management and disposal services. This would create a multi-billion dollar market as companies specializing in nuclear waste management would emerge to take advantage of the new opportunity. So Echols’ approach would not only create cost effective solutions to the nation’s nuclear waste problems, it would create a lot of jobs and economic development.

    Under such a system, the government’s role would be to provide strict regulatory oversight as it does for the rest of the nuclear industry. As the conference demonstrated, companies exist to provide these services in other parts of the world. Under Echols’ plan, those companies would be doing business here.

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