It is the task of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to clean all this up. The plans are to pay the French company Areva, who have proved their technology works, to build a new mixed oxide fuel (MOX) plant.
The other option is to let the US-Japanese GE-Hitachi build a new fast PRISM reactor on the site to burn the plutonium and produce electricity. This is a more elegant engineering option but the reactor is totally unproven and is decades away from completion.
Sellafield: The dangers of Britain’s nuclear dustbin RT, 10 July, 2012“…….Cold war legacy Behind the razor wire, security guards and public relations campaigns,
Sellafield is home to some of the most radioactive buildings in Europe.
The UK has the largest stockpile of Plutonium anywhere in the world and it’s all stored at Sellafield. Plutonium is used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons and is extremely radioactive with a half-life of 25,000 years. Read more »
In dispraise of Integral Fast Nuclear Reactors Independent Australia, 5 July 12, Can only nuclear technocrats discuss nuclear issues — leaving the great unwashed out of the debate? Noel Wauchope considers the latest – but not necessarily the greatest – nuclear gizmo — Integral Fast Reactors. “….. It must be reassuring to the nuclear lobby to know that the great unwashed, the hoi polloi, the peasantry, have no idea about the differences between the various types of nuclear reactors now in operation — the Generation 2 and Generation 3 reactors. Let alone the new developing blueprints of Generation IV: Integral Fast Reactors, Lead Cooled Fast Reactors, Molten Salt Reactors, Sodium Cooled Fast reactors, Thorium Liquid Fuel reactors; the peasant mind boggles! And wait, like those old TV commercials – there’s more! – Generation V is now in the minds and on some bits of paper of the nuclear boffins.
Well, the nuclear priesthood is pretty safe in all this. They keep the argument narrowly technical, with pages and pages on the various technicalities of cooling systems, reprocessing of fuel systems, passive safety systems and so on; in other words, they induce in the public a kind of mindless torpor as they dazzle us with science.
At the same time, the nuclear priesthood, like some gifted but autistic child with specialist knowledge in just one area, seems to have little grasp of other issues concerning nuclear power — blinkered as they are in their apparent view that the technicalities are the whole story. This is the case with their latest propaganda for the ‘Integral Fast Reactor’ or IFR. Read more »
Ultimately, however, the core problem may be that such new reactors don’t eliminate theuclear waste that has piled up so much as transmute it. Even with a fleet of such fast reactors, nations would nonetheless require an ultimate home for radioactive waste, one reason that a 2010 M.I.T. report on spent nuclear fuel dismissed such fast reactors.
Can Fast Reactors Speedily Solve Plutonium Problems? The U.K. is grappling with how to get rid of weapons-grade plutonium and may employ a novel reactor design to consume it Scientific American By David Biello | March 21, 2012 The U.K. has nearly 100 metric tons of plutonium—dubbed “the element from hell” by some—that it doesn’t know what to do with. The island nation does not need the potent powder to construct more nuclear weapons, and spends billions of British pounds to ensure that others don’t steal it for that purpose. The unstable element, which will remain radioactive for millennia, is the residue of ill-fated efforts to recycle used nuclear fuel.
One solution under consideration is to recycle the plutonium yet further—by using it as fuel in a pair of new, so-called “fast” reactors. Such nuclear reactors can actually “consume” plutonium via fission (transforming it into other forms of nuclear waste that are not as useful for weapons). The U.K. is considering a plan to build two of General Electric’s PRISM fast reactors, the latest in a series of fast-reactor designs that for several decades have attempted with mixed success to handle plutonium and other radioactive waste from nuclear power. Read more »
Are New Types of Reactors Needed for the U.S. Nuclear Renaissance? Scientific American By David Biello | February 19, 2010 | “…… struggles to find a permanent resting place for nuclear waste has prompted some to resurrect an idea that stretches back to the Manhattan Project: so-called fast-neutron reactors that can consume nuclear waste through fission. Whether it is billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates touting a new design for a traveling-wave reactor or the South Korean government promoting spent fuel reprocessing and fast breeder reactors, observers and governments seem to think it is time to reconsider fast reactors—despite the fact that the designs have a mixed track record. Since the 1950s, roughly $100 billion has been spent on the research and development of such reactors around the world, yet there is currently only one producing electricity—the BN-600 reactor in Russia, operational since 1980…..
Going fast with sodium
The most prevalent type of fast-neutron reactor, so-called because the neutrons used to initiate the fission chain reaction are traveling faster than neutrons moderated bywater in conventional nuclear reactors, operate at temperatures as high as 550 degrees Celsius and use liquid sodium instead of water as a coolant. Sodium burns explosively when exposed to either air or water, necessitating elaborate safety controls…..
But attempts to make that technology commercial have largely failed, mostly because of difficulties with controlling sodium fires and the steam generators that transfer heat from the sodium to water…….
The French Superphenix sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactor operated successfully for more than a decade—but only produced electricity 7 percent of the time, “one of the lowest load factors in nuclear history,” said nuclear consultant Mycle Schneider, an IPFM member during the call. An accident at the plant cost one engineer his life and injured four other people when a leftover tank with roughly 100 kilograms of sodium residue exploded, according to Schneider.
Further, such reactors require that the spent nuclear fuel be reprocessed, a technical program that involves extracting plutonium and other fissile materials from the depleted uranium fuel rods. Such elements can then be used in the fast-neutron reactor or mixed with uranium to form so-called mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and deployed in a more traditional nuclear reactor. The U.S. had such a program until the 1970s that was briefly resuscitated by the second Bush administration; it was again shelved by the Obama administration in 2009.
Of course, such plutonium and highly enriched uranium are also exactly the isotopes used to fashion nuclear weapons, making the materials security threats. Already, the world has roughly 250 metric tons of such spare plutonium stockpiled, largely concentrated in the U.K. and France, that has been reprocessed but never used as nuclear reactor fuel. That’s enough to make 30,000 “Nagasaki-size” nuclear bombs, according to von Hippel……..
Fears of such a uranium shortage led India, which has limited natural supplies of the nuclear fuel, to explore another fissile element, thorium, as an alternative. Wrapping highly fissile plutonium in a thorium blanket could produce enough nuclear fuel indefinitely, according to the vision laid out by the architect of India’s nuclear program, physicist Homi J. Bhabha, in 1954. The Indian government is currently building such a prototype fast breeder reactor, despite limited success with a precursor, said Princeton physicist M. V. Ramana during the IPFM call. “The cost of electricity is 80 percent higher than from heavy-water reactors,” he added. Uranium prices would need to increase 15-fold from current levels of roughly $80 per kilogram to make it economically attractive…..
Fast-neutron reactors would not improve the economics of nuclear power based on past experience, ….
As far back as 1956, Adm. Hyman Rickover, who oversaw both the Navy’s nuclear-propulsion efforts as well as the dawn of the civilian nuclear power industry, cited such sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactors as “expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair.” That judgment remains despite six decades and $100 billion of global effort, according to physicist Michael Dittmar of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who wrote, “ideas about near-future commercial fission breeder reactors are nothing but wishful thinking” in a November 2009 analysis.
“For that $100 billion we did learn some things,” remarked physicist Thomas Cochran of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, during the IPFM call. “We learned that fast reactors were going to cost substantially more than light-water reactors…[and]…that, relative to thermal reactors, they’re not very reliable.”….
And even if a fleet of fast-neutron reactors were built, Cochran noted, “you’re not going to eliminate the need for a geologic repository.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-new-types-of-reactors-needed-for-nuclear-renaissance
- 1 NUCLEAR ISSUES
- civil liberties
- Depleted uranium
- global warming
- Opposition to nuclear
- safety and incidents
- secrets and lies
- NUCLEAR COMPANIES
- 1 NUCLEAR ISSUES