[ RadSafe ] [ RadSafe Yucca Mtn.

Forbes, John forbesjm at nv.doe.gov
Wed Sep 22 12:37:37 CDT 2010

Parts 1 and 2 of Jerry Cohen's Policy for HLW Management (see below) 
should & could be performed at the Nevada National Security Site.

...John Forbes

At 09:03 PM 9/20/2010, Jerry Cohen wrote:

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 "back yard". 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 back yard!

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 drums

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.

Jerry Cohen

More information about the RadSafe mailing list