[ RadSafe ] [ RadSafe Yucca Mtn.
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.
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
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
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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