Thursday, June 16, 2011

The End of Enriched Uranium Reactors?

The situation in Japan's Fukushima provence is much worse than the world perceives.

The implications are mind boggling.


Dr Sawada says that the creation of nuclear fission generates radioactive materials for which there is simply no knowledge informing us how to dispose of the radioactive waste safely. 
"Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations," he explained. "To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing."
Gundersen believes it will take experts at least ten years to design and implement the plan.
"So ten to 15 years from now maybe we can say the reactors have been dismantled, and in the meantime you wind up contaminating the water," Gundersen said. "We are already seeing Strontium [at] 250 times the allowable limits in the water table at Fukushima. Contaminated water tables are incredibly difficult to clean. So I think we will have a contaminated aquifer in the area of the Fukushima site for a long, long time to come." 
Unfortunately, the history of nuclear disasters appears to back Gundersen's assessment.
"With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started," he said, "But they never end."

Since nuclear "cleanups", including de-commissioning current nuclear plants is impossible at the moment... is there any reason to think that the situation will improve in the absence of fossil fuels? Keep in mind that nuclear waste is deadly for tens of thousands of years... and we have less than 100 years of fossil fuels left.

This is what happens when lawyers and Special Interest Groups (I have to rinse my mouth out every time I say those 3 words) run the most technologically advanced society in the world.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

What, no nukes?
Gone over to the dark side and joined the dirty hippies?:-)
If Libertarians would talk more about the quality of government rather than the quantity of government, they might get somewhere.
The nuke industry is the original sleazy, unregulated 'privatize the profits, socialize the costs' industry.
That's what their lobbyists and lawyers work for.
Rational Liberal

Anonymous said...

As Dmitry Orlov points out- present nuke reactors will need to be shut down by nuke engineers of a future generation. These would be people of another generation who are far into fossil fuel depletion and have few resources in terms of energy, knowledge, and resources to accomplish the task.

Best,
Marshall

tweell said...

Excuse me, but the total amount of radioactive material in the world lessens as it is used. So how is that uranium handled by man is evil while uranium sitting by itself is good or at least neutral? Step away from the propaganda.
Those nasty nuclear weapons wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they remain desolate craters where no life exists to this day, right? Well...

Anonymous said...

tweell,

Its not the uranium people are concerned with. It is the plutonium and such which do not exist on this planet in any significant quantities except for where man has made it within reactors.

U235 + U239 + Neutrons from fission = Plutonium (very very toxic with a long half life).

And thats just the most obvious byproduct of uranium driven fission.

tweell said...

Yep, Plutonium is bad stuff, it has the same half-life as U235 and is toxic as well. However, it can be used as more fuel, in conjunction with thorium. Handy, that.
Tell you what, we can compare the radiation put out by nuclear plants versus the radiation put out by coal plants.

Anonymous said...

tweell,

They are worried about, or at least ought to be worried about, strontium 90 with a half life of of 28.8 years. Since its half life is so short it will essentially be all gone in 288 years or ten half lives, less than a thousandth of a percent of what we started with will remain. Since its half life is so short it can’t be a natural element found in nature, something has to produce it or it decays away.

The bad news is It’s Alkaline earth metal with two electrons in its valence shell just like calcium and it is only slightly larger than calcium so it behaves a lot like calcium. It is bio-accumulative just like calcium. Starting with a small amount blown across the land will accumulate in plants we eat or in grass cows eat. Cows, or lactating mothers for that matter, will further concentrate it into milk then we incorporate it into our teeth and bones using it as calcium. So the big problems will be children who need a lot of calcium for growing bones and women.

The plutonium is not going to be a problem unless someone inhales plutonium dust and gets heavy metal poisoning, which also causes cancer. The atoms have to decay to emit radiation and plutonium’s half life is so long it will not release enough radiation to be a problem over any meaningful time frame. The Navy carries super enriched Plutonium bombs with as much of the uranium and other particles as possible removed because of the long half life. That way they can carry them aboard ships and subs without bombarding the men sleeping next to them with radiation.

Best,
Dan

Donal said...

I remember Three Mile Island (I still have the gov't report somewhere) and watched Chernobyl on TV - even now, quarter of a century on, we can't eat lamb from Wales because of the radioactive dust that landed on the Welsh fields. And now Fukushima....

For me, the importance of Fukushima is the slamming of the last escape route from the burning house of Peak Oil. There will be no electric economy or hydrogen economy without nuclear. And we have no Plan B.

As governments wander around with their collective heads in hand, looking for a future fuel policy then can sell to their voters, the obvious result is coal, and any other fossil fuel we can pretend is a potential saviour of our cherished Western lifestyle, whatever the realities of its EROI.

The only future 'energy security' is using much less, and needing much less. In fact Greg, it would be a truly Libertarian policy, the ultimate freedom comes from a lack of need or neediness.

Not a Republican vote-winner though!

Anonymous said...

tweell,

The reactors in Japan were running on Plutonium as fuel as you suggest when the earthquake occurred.

And if you really want to compare radiation levels of coal plants against Fukashima be my guest. That line doesn't quite have the same meaning after a melt down or a cooling pond exposure. And it certainly fails to address the long term storage options for the spent fuel and byproducts at all.

Anonymous said...

Donal- don't forget that coal mining uses a whole lot of petroleum in the mining, transporting, mining equipment. Also, the coal plants and national grid need to be maintained with petroleum powered equipment.

Not only that but recent studies have downgraded economically producible reserve. Many down by as much as 85%. Other respected sources are projecting peak coal as soon as this year.

Marshall

Stephen B. said...

tweell,

The world's uranium, by and large, was sitting buried deep in mountains and other relatively remote areas until humans started digging it up, converting it to other radioactive materials, and sending it forth in a variety of ways, throughout the biosphere.

The total amount may now be a bit less, but that is small comfort to people living with radioactive contamination in their soil, air, or water.

Anonymous said...

On another note, I would be interested in seeing some updated pics of your garden with the sq foot method boxes (hopefully with some good veggie growth by now).

The massive amount of rain made it impossible to do any early planting this year so I planted basically everything the same week. Really not an issue, I don't have time to do replanting of beets etc.

Fare thee well,
Meiyo

Anonymous said...

Off topic;

When taking out the yesterday today it struck me that there aren’t any flies where they should be. Don’t get me wrong I don’t particularly care for them however it seems odd that there shouldn’t be any trying to annoy me. After thinking about it today at work I walked over to a few dumpsters where food is discarded opened them up and looked inside; disgusting malodorous rotting food yes, flies no. so there are at least two places approximately thirty miles apart where flies should be yet aren’t. Has anybody else noticed this?

Best,
Dan

Greg T. Jeffers said...

We have our usual collection of flies here on the farm...

Meiyo:

I will put up some pics... we got 50 heads of broccoli blanched and frozen, and a box of cabbage ready for kraut (32 heads in a box). First year asparaugus growth OK, potatoes are not having a good year, thought sweet potatoes are... corn is doing well.

kathy said...

Opposite here. The potatoes are amazing and the corn is pitiful. We have very early broccoli and it looks to be good for tomatoes. The litter of pigs I was suppose to have in my pen died and I'm pigless. I'll keep looking. Somebody must have a runt they need a home for. The fellow who cuts my hay is going bankrupt (small dairy farmer) and he never shoed up this year. I have an acre of old wet hay and no one is able to cut. Sything anyone?

Greg T. Jeffers said...

We are having haying problems here, too. I am going to write about the economics of haying with tractors, and diesel, and twine, and repairs, and the waste of hay from feeding with bales.

versus:

Haying with a scythe, and stacking looses and feeding.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Rational Liberal:

By mathematical necessity, the quality of government (per dollar invested) increases which a commensurate decrease in government size, until we reach the point of diminishing returns... and that would be the equilibrium of government.

tweell said...

The total radioactivity caused by nuclear power is still less than the total caused by coal, even adding in the accidents, ditto for deaths caused. The modern nuclear power designs are much better than the ones that have had those accidents, the problem is that they aren't being built.
Industry needs power. Nuclear is the only power we currently have available that can satisfy that. Fusion is getting closer to being viable, but we need fission to get us there.

DaShui said...

HaHa nuclear fusion, space colonies, jet packs, flying cars, orgasmatron......

Anonymous said...

Tweel,

There is a good chance that the output from the Fukushima nuclear roman candle may eclipse all prior radiation output from all sources combined. In addition to the three cores that have melted through the containment vessels and are now a mass of nuclear magma there is the equivalent of another seventeen cores in the spent fuel pools that are going critical at random intervals. Since they have completely lost control of the geometry of the piles there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it without completely removing the material from its current location and physically separating it. For comparison Chernobyl involved one reactor core.

Throw in other problems like the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant which is nearly flooded and recently caught fire. That in turn caused it to temporarily loose power to its spent fuel pools which then gained heat at the rate of two degrees per hour until power was restored. Then just look at the BS they are putting out about it. “Omaha Public Power District officials said the images don't tell the whole story. They said the flood water pumped into a giant donut around the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant was put there to keep flood water out.” WTF; They are already flooding and the Army Corps of Engineers says the water level will continue to rise all summer long. With problems like this, that will now get a lot of attention, whether disaster is averted or not; you can stick a fork nuclear power.

Best,
Dan

Anonymous said...

I reckon I should qualify that as may eclipse all prior terrestrial radiation output in human history from all sources combined. Also, one thing that is glaringly obvious, these plants aren’t as well built as the nuclear industry would like us to believe. At this point they are probably all being ran by MBA’s that are drunk on the six sigma black belt cool aid.

Best,
Dan

Anonymous said...

Besides we need to increase our carbon output. Didn’t you get the memo.

Best,
Dan


Besides we need to increase our carbon output. Didn’t you get the memo.

Best,
Dan