[ RadSafe ] Subduction Zones and Nuclear Waste

Jim Darrough darrougj at onid.orst.edu
Fri Oct 22 16:54:34 CDT 2010

Uranium is cheap to mine, and plentiful.

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Jerry Cohen
Sent: Friday, October 22, 2010 1:16 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Subduction Zones and Nuclear Waste

    You are right on! Why do we continue to pursue  the dumb idea of geologic disposal of nuclear waste? Because, as Willie Sutton put it--Thats where the money is! Many billions of dollars have already been squandered on the concept of geologic disposal--and the scam will likely continue until whenever the money runs out. Nobody want the kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
    Oceanic disposal would simply be too inexpensive, safe,and easy for anybody to exploit.

Jerry Cohen

From: George Stanford <gstanford at aya.yale.edu>
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>
Sent: Thu, October 21, 2010 11:35:04 PM
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Subduction Zones and Nuclear Waste


    Here are some thoughts for your consideration.

    If the "nuclear waste" consists of used fuel from thermal reactors, deep-sea disposal is indeed a bad idea -- not because of the radioactivity, but because only 5% of the fuel's energy (or much less, in the case of HWRs) has been used, and it would be expensive to try to retrieve it.  Much better to put it in retrievable storage in Yucca Mountain, so that its uranium and fissile material
(plutonium) will be available for when fast reactors are to be started up (eventually doing away with uranium mining for centuries, and with milling, and enrichment of uranium forever).

    But it's a different kettle of fish if the waste consists largely of unwanted fission products (many of which have commercial value).
I'm not qualified to say whether you're right or wrong about the subduction angle, but I'll point out that it doesn't matter – for two reasons.
First, the waste, packaged in suitable containers, can be dropped where it will bury itself in the silt, where it will sit undisturbed for many millennia, constituting less of an insult to the biosphere than just about any other human activity you care to name.

    Suppose, however, the waste were to start to dissolve in the sea water almost immediately (which it wouldn't).  Remember that the oceans are already appreciably radioactive (K-40, mainly).
If you do the calculation, you find that, with reasonable dispersal of the waste canisters, the increment to the oceans' radioactivity would be utterly inconsequential.

    Why is this not taken seriously?  Because it's so cheap that there's no money to be made from it, so there's no lobby for it.  The opposition comes from an unholy alliance of uninformed environmentalists and interests that want to be paid for researching and developing various expensive methods of land disposal.

    -- George Stanford
        Reactor physicist, retired.

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