[ RadSafe ] [ RadSafe Yucca Mtn.
jjcohen at prodigy.net
Mon Sep 20 22:03:08 CDT 2010
Since my views on the Yucca Mountain Project to the effect that the YMP is,
and always has been a dumb idea seem to have elicited some comments (mostly
negative), from Radsafers, perhaps I should elaborate. To provide some
perspective on the subject, allow me first to discuss the history of the
development of HLW policy in the USA to give some idea on how the situation
degenerated into its currently dismal state. Then, for what it is worth, I
shall give my ideas on how nuclear waste should be managed in this country.
The problem began, I believe, in 1957 when the AEC decided it needed to
establish a policy for managing HLW. Accordingly, the AEC requested the NAS
to form an expert committee to make recommendations. Unfortunately, since
this committee consisted almost entirely of geologists and other earth
scientists, it was apparently predetermined that underground burial of the
HLW was the only reasonable method for disposing the waste. Initially, it
was recommended that HLW, appropriately solidified, be emplaced in abandoned
salt mines, where it could remain indefinitely since it was unlikely that
water would infiltrate. Several years and millions of dollars later, for
various political and technical reasons the idea was abandoned and the AEC,
and successor organizations (ERDA, & DOE) embarked on a series of
unsuccessful, schemes to bury the waste somewhere that would be
technologically and politically acceptable. This approach also turned out to
be a fiasco because pretty much everywhere (including Nevada) was in
somebody's "backyard". During this period a few "voices in the wilderness"
,including myself, recommended that oceanic deposal, might be the best bet.
Foremost, among them was Charles Osterberg, a prominent oceanographer
working with the IAEA and, Director of their Marine Laboratory. The capacity
of the ocean to dilute is so great that even if all the HLW were to
dissolve (an absurd possibility) the radioactive concentration would still
be insignificant from a public health standpoint. If the HLW were vitrified
or solidified into an insoluble form, the health and safety consequences
would be of no consequence. Of course, the actual consequences are
unimportant compared to the perceived effects. This simple observation was
apparent to just about everyone involved with HLW policy. Accordingly , if
the perception of hazard (real or imagined) is the overriding consideration
in gaining acceptability for any HLW management policy, why have we wasted
billions of dollars on technological research including waste solidification
methods and geologic studies? Does anyone really believe that Senator Reid
cares about the solubility of the waste form, the migration rate of
dissolved waste, or the calculated radiation dose that might result from any
"worst case" scenario. I seriously doubt it. He just doesn't want it in his
OK, so what policy for HLW management should be applied, I suggest:
1. All nuclear fuel should be reprocessed and all fissile material recovered
for fuel fabrication or other useful purposes.
2. The raffinates including all unusable fission products should be
solidified by mixing it in concrete and emplaced and solidified in suitable
3. The waste containing drums should be transported to the deepest part of
the ocean, and dropped to descend (>10 km.) to the ocean floor.
I realize that the actual application would be much more complex, but I
think you can get the idea from the suggested steps . I am sure you can
think or lots of reasons why this will not work, but I really believe that
no matter how distasteful this approach might be to the "Greenies" , it
would absolutely minimize resultant radiation exposure and for that reason
ought to be acceptable to reasonable people.
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