Positive Energy

Friday, May 25, 2007

8. Waste and Decommissioning

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on waste and decommissioning ? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Vigorously disagree. First, anyone who describes spent fuel from thermal reactors as "waste" just does not understand nuclear power. The term "waste" has been pushed forward by nuclear opposition groups who think that this negative terminology will promote their cause. It is a loaded and pejorative word that makes a realistic discussion of the issues impossible. If the UK government really wants to disseminate the truth about this material it should stop describing it as "waste".

Spent fuel from thermal reactors is a treasure. It contains lots of energy, energy that can be released using fission. The spent fuel from one year of operation of a UK light water thermal reactor can run a fast reactor for more than twenty years.


To manage the spent fuel from today's thermal reactors the UK government should build fast reactors and power them with today's spent fuel, and with the depleted uranium left over from enrichment.

The UK government intends to burden new nuclear build projects with an up front cost meant to address full decommissioning. The very fact that the nuclear industry alone bears these penalties indicates that the UK government really does not want new nuclear projects. If this burden was equally applied to other technologies the position of the UK government would not appear so conflicted. For instance, wind turbine complexes should be forced to restore bird populations and pay for this up front. Or coal mines should be forced to replace all the lost husbands, and pay for this up front. Or hydro forced to restore lost environments and drowned cities. In truth, the muddled thinking of the UK government shows that they do not know what they are doing, and causes people to be suspicious about new nuclear development.

The UK government should rethink the whole concept of decommissioning. The wasteful idea that one site can be abandoned and another selected when an upgrade in reactor technology is warranted is not sustainable. Once a reactor site has been selected it should be viewed as permanent. The site should be managed so that reactors can be maintained and improved there forever.

The UK government has to consider extending the operating life of its current nuclear power plants. A false sense of urgency is created by constantly referring to the current plants as having a very limited life span. The situation is not that dire and the UK government should point this out.


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