# Curious , why not send spent nuclear rods to the sun ?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by river, Jan 10, 2014.

1. ### Russ_WattersNot a Trump supporter...Valued Senior Member

Messages:
5,051
After more discussion of how it could be possible to send the nuclear waste into space, I again want to reiterate the idiocy of the basic idea of blasting a relatively rare and valuable resource into space instead of using it!

3. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Yes, part that decays with half-lives of say 10 or less years could be used, but separating them from others is too costly - Why that part of the waste is just allowed to decay in storage pools. Then the fuel rods are, often I think, reprocessed to recover the "un burnt" fuel still in them. I don't know much about this, but understand that only a small part to the fuel is utilized before the build up of by products tends to poison the reactions by (neutron capture I think)

What isotope(s) do you refer to? - You seem to asserting that currently valuable matter (worth more than cost of recovery and separation) is now being discarded or wasted. - That does not sound very plausible to me. One of the most used isotopes is cobalt 60, but it is made with normal cobalt inserted into a running reactor to capture a few of the neutrons. No cost to separate from other radio-active materials. After it has "cooked" long enough, just pull it out, put in shielding container, and sell it. It is used to conserve sealed up food by irradiation and for several medical purposes.

5. ### billvonValued Senior Member

Messages:
13,952
Well, heck, just the plutonium and U-235 could be reprocessed into MOX fuel without much fuss. France does this regularly.

7. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
I know they do. I think US may send them some material to reprocess.* I admire France's large** government run nuclear energy program. They have safety first POV and don't let private companies design reactors and worse, the control rooms.

The "experts" brought into help control the Three Mile Island did not understand what the unique array of gages was telling them for more than day - thought a hydrogen bubble was forming and pushing the cooling water down, exposing fuel rods with risk of a full melt down. To control /correct this (not real) problem they made the problem worse and intentionally vented the reactor to the air to get rid of the "hydrogen bubble."!

In France every control room is the same (or one of a couple government designs) The three mile island control room was I understand it designed by the power company's public relation division. It was all on one wall across from the elevated windowed visitors gallery - good PR but bad safety. Despite its larger size /electrical generation, AFAIK, France has yet to have a significant nuclear "incident."

* I said in post 201:
"Then the fuel rods are, often I think, reprocessed to recover the "un burnt" fuel still in them. "

** I think it provides France with about half its electrical energy, plus income from selling some to Germany. In my POV this is just another example of US arrogance, like failure to copy European socialized medicine to get health care at less than half the the cost (counting what is paid to insurance companies, not needed when taxes pay most, or often 100%, of the cost for treatments) with more than 2 years increasing in life expectancy as most doctor are on salary.*** They buy drug on massive scale, not pharmacy chain by pharmacy chain, etc.

*** Can and do take what evertime they need to examine you. In the US's "fee for service" system, if the doctor takes more time to check you, that is profit out of his pocket, so if you get more than 6 minutes of his time you are lucky - he wants to "process" 10 patient per hour so usually so most of your contact time will be with his assistants. Europeans, Canadian etc. don't need to buy medical insurance as their cost is near zero. (Paid by their taxes.) Hell, I have had two major operations in Brazil, that required a total of 7 days in the hospital. My total bill for both, converted into dollars, was $0.00! But remember: "USA is the best! - USA, USA, USA" - Best in ignorant arrogance, unable to learn from others, perhaps. The AMA's lobbyist have gotten ALL states legislators to consult the AMA to certify the "need" for a new medical school, before it will be allowed - Why many who want to be doctors can not get an admission slot in a US medical school, so go abroad to study. The AMA is the US's strongest, most successful, union now.**** **** So successful you don't even think it is a union! Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2014 8. ### Russ_WattersNot a Trump supporter...Valued Senior Member Messages: 5,051 Not more costly than blasting it into space, no. More costly than storing it in even an absurdly expensive warehouse, yes, but... The Yucca Mountain repository took 25 years and about$100 Billion to construct before it was illegally closed and sabotaged by Obama/Reid when it was ready to open. Due to the lost lawsuits and court orders to continue work on its approval it may yet open, but I expect Obama to continue to stall it until he is out of office. If the project fails, then virtually all of the money spent becomes wasted and reprocessing becomes cheaper as a hindsight decision, if not moving forward (building two repositories is twice as expensive as building just one more). The CBO did an analysis and the cost differences ranged from 6% to 100%, but. Of course, if we spend another 25 years and build another \$100 Billion repository and another Democratic President sabotages it, all bets are off.

So are we really talking about cost or political palatability?

Either way, both reprocessing and storing (or building a storage facility that you never use, then reprocessing it instead

) is still much cheaper than blasting it into space.
"Valuable" is of course relative, but essentially all (99+%) of nuclear waste is useful material. 95% is U238, which is all-but non-radioactive and is useful for things that other heavy metals are useful for (ballast, armor, bullets). Most of the rest is re-usable radioactive material (as fuel or in medicine).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spent_nuclear_fuel#Nature_of_spent_fuel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium

No, only costing less than blasting it into space (and only costing marginally more than discarding it forever in a mountain in New Mexico).

9. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
I told more than five years ago, how to dispose of the "aged radioactive waste" after "the unburnt" fuel was recovered and re-posted idea here. It is at least 10 times cheaper (on life cycle basis) than what is currently done and much safer too. You need to compare to that (or even the stupid, not safe from terrorists) current policy - You can always invent an alternative (not useful) that is more costly but hard to find /invent one more expensive than sending waste to the sun.

10. ### billvonValued Senior Member

Messages:
13,952
It was quite similar to every other reactor control panel in the US at the time. (Based on what was learned from TMI, almost every reactor in the country made significant changes to their control room layout, including flow indications in the PORV outflow pipe, better level reporting in the pressurizer and better coordination of alarms.) It wasn't just TMI that had this (potential) problem - it was just the first place it showed up.

11. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Not what was reported at the time (first week or 10 days afterwards). I was living in Baltimore area and followed all I could read then. Interviews with TMI workers, etc. in newspapers & TV etc. If that were true, why did the called in experts not understand what the gages were telling, get wrong idea that a hydrogen bubble had formed, making it necessary to vent to avoid full melt down of the exposed tops of the fuel rods the bubble was or could cause?

I don't trust the US government to admit what all it does wrong, especially "post Snowden." Probably the department of Energy is "spinning the facts." I do think GE and Westinghouse have finally developed a good design now, but believe control rooms are still custom ordered to buyers specks, or were when I was in the US 20 years ago.

You even agree in part that post TMI, control room were made more uniform with common labels on gages etc. In my opinion for profit compamies should not be doing what they do in the US. For example, only the "installed and operating" cost of plant is included in the "RATE BASE" the pubic service commission uses to calculated what the electric bills can be based on for the next year. (A few rare exceptions, for example the southern company got a special GA legislative change to allow its new nuclear plant's construction cost to be in the rate base as they occurred. I know as have owned stock in SO for more than 10 years.)

Do you know what day TMI came on line? I forget the year, but that date was 31 December, with some of the safety back up cooling pumps still to be installed! - that had nothing to do with the accident, but shows why "for profit companies" should NOT be in charge of the nuclear power plants.

* I kept an eye on which way the wind was blowing - made my family stay in doors with windows closed one day. TMI was not that far away.

Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2014
12. ### billvonValued Senior Member

Messages:
13,952
Because reactor control rooms, at that point, had just been evolving without much thought put into them. There were a lot of gauges added on later, and rather than mess with the overall layout, they just put them somewhere new. For example, the one reading that might have told them they had a stuck PORV (the outflow pipe temperature sensor) was stuck on the back of the desk where no one would ordinarily look for it. Since it was a new indicator, added "just in case," it was not placed where most of the readings associated with safety were placed. The one reading they COULD see, the PORV status lamp, showed it was operating correctly. However, the light just indicated that the SIGNAL had been sent to the valve; it did not indicate that the valve had actually reclosed.

Again, this is not anything unique to that reactor. PORV outflow indicators were not considered primary; indeed, flow indicators were not even required until after this accident.

Right. Up until that point the NRC thought they were safe enough; they conformed to industry-wide "best practices." (BTW it had nothing to do with labels, it was placement of indicators, placement of controls and operational details of indicators.)

True of almost every reactor out there. The reactor typically is started up before plant construction is 100% complete. For example, SONGS2 was started up here before the SONGS3 reactor was completed.

They were operating under, and meeting, the NRC rules of the time. Thus the government wouldn't have done anything differently.

13. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Exactly my point - and how France did it differently from the "get-go." I'll bet if they later added a new gage, they retrofit it to ALL reactors in France and installed it in exactly the same location, to avoid the confusion the US system's of "Every control room is Unique," local design lay out by profit making company, which specifies and pays for it.

In France they are all owned by the government and safety comes before profits. France would never start operations, as you now confirm is common place in US,* before all the safety equipment is even installed, just to get new plant's cost included in the "rate base" for next year with a December 31 turn on.

* I only knew that TMI had a December 31 turn on with safety pumps still in their crates or not even on site at start up! Having the full nuclear power plant's very expense capital cost in rate base a year earlier is big deal for the company's "bottom line." A 31 December turn on beats the hell out of day later 1 January turn on from a profit POV.