Giving Gifts to our Grandchildren
Most nuclear fuel used today is uranium obtained from mines. About 1% of the uranium in the ore is fissionable. The "as mined" uranium can be used directly in CANDU reactors, but it has to be enriched to be used in the light water reactors found in the US. Using the uranium fuel in a reactor reduces the amount of fissionable material, but does not exhaust it. So the used fuel can be reprocessed and reused.
Some information about this is available at:
High-Level "Nuclear Waste" Is Really Used Nuclear Fuel
Another source of information is:
Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
The "used once" fuel can be stored for future generations. It provides an abundance of energy that will be easily obtainable, i.e. no mining required. We can think of it as a fabulous gift from this generation to the future.
So do we have something to congratulate ourselves about? Unfortunately, Canadians just seem to be incapable of doing anything positive for our succeeding generations. The rather inglorious story of our indecision and confusion is documented at:
Nuclear Fuel Wastes
For a detailed discussion of nuclear fuel storage and the approach currently favoured in Canada, see:
The Chemistry of Nuclear Fuel Waste Disposal
We have an opportunity to create a new industry in Canada. We could offer to store used nuclear fuel on the condition that we get to keep it. Other countries could avoid the cost of setting up their own storage systems. They could pay us to take it instead. And what do we get out of this? First, paid work associated with the short term collection and storage. But the big payoff comes later, with the energy wealth that we will have accumulated. Our descendents will be able to use this energy to live in comfort, and they will be able to sell it to the rest of the world so that everyone else lives in comfort too. The world will thank us for being so far sighted.