[ RadSafe ] Plutonium from Power Reactors

Brennan, Mike (DOH) Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Thu Apr 10 18:16:29 CDT 2008

Dear Prof. Raabe,
When I say "undesirable" isotopes of Pu, I am only talking about
undesirable for making weapons, not for fueling reactors.  The issues of
neutron absorption cross section and how long an atom takes to fission
after absorbing a neutron are much less important in fuel that is going
to be in a reactor for the next couple years than they are for a
critical mass that will hold together for a handful of nanoseconds
before no longer having a critical geometry.  Like you, I am a supporter
of recycling (or reprocessing) commercial fuel to make more commercial
fuel.  It would have been nice if Carter hadn't paid off political debts
by making a policy he personally knew to be wrong (as a Navy Nuke he had
more than enough knowledge to see that the rational for not reprocessing
commercial fuel was false).  On the other hand, the U and PU in the
spent fuel isn't decaying enough to make a difference, but the fission
fragments are, so when eventually we do reprocess the first couple years
will be with easier to work with material.
I agree with you that new nuclear power plants to meet new need and
replace old fossil fuel plants is the most economically sound way to go.
I personally think cars run on liquid nitrogen might be better than cars
run on hydrogen, but that's a quibble.


From: Otto Raabe [mailto:ograabe at ucdavis.edu] 
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 3:04 PM
To: Brennan, Mike (DOH); radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] Plutonium from Power Reactors

At 11:23 AM 4/10/2008, Brennan, Mike  (DOH) wrote:

	Another factor is ease of separation.  It is way easier to
	elements than isotopes, which is one of the reasons that
Pu-239/240 is
	more widely used in weapons than U-235 (there are other reasons,
	There are ways of constructing fuel and designing and operating
	that produce more of the desired Pu isotopes and fewer of the
	isotopes.  Commercial reactors, particularly ones that have to
be shut
	down to have fuel rods removed from them, and tend to burn the
fuel for
	a couple years, produce more of the undesirable Pu isotopes that
	very difficult to remove from the desirable ones.

April 10, 2008

Dear Mike,

Electricity of France recycles nuclear fuel. (Apparently "recycle"
sounds more environmentally friendly than "reprocess".) They seem to
have worked out all the problems. Before Jimmy Carter shut down most of
our nuclear programs 30 years ago, we were well on way to recycling fuel
and even having a breeder reactor.  Can't we get back on track?

We have plenty of relatively cool old fuel rods being stored at nuclear
plants around the country and I think we should not be burying them in
Yucca Mountain or anywhere else.

In addition to recycling nuclear fuel, I believe that we should be
constructing 400 new nuclear electrical generator stations since nuclear
power is environmentally sound and we need to move away from fossil

With plentiful nuclear electricity we can produce hydrogen by
electrolysis for use in electrical motor vehicles powered by fuel cells.
That will get us off foreign oil and clean up our air pollution as well.

Sadly, our elected leaders are driven by widespread apprehension about
nuclear power.


Prof. Otto G. Raabe, Ph.D., CHP
Center for Health & the Environment
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
E-Mail: ograabe at ucdavis.edu
Phone: (530) 752-7754   FAX: (530) 758-6140 

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