[ RadSafe ] Danger of nuclear fuel storage at Columbia Generating Station

Brennan, Mike (DOH) Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Wed Nov 26 12:27:24 CST 2014

Hi, Mark.  

I agree with your assessment, and I too believe that Pres. Carter made the decision to not support reprocessing for the wrong reasons.  I believe our countries policies on spent nuclear fuel have suffered from being controlled by politicians suspicious of anything more complicated than double-bow knots to keep their shoes tied, advised but fanatics and bean-counters (and not the good kind, either).  

That being said, there are a couple of points that are consistently overlooked:

1.  There really isn't all that much spent fuel, in terms of volume.  I am familiar with the dry cask storage area at our nuclear power plant, and even with the security fence it is smaller than my yard (OK, I have a modestly large yard).  I know people who own enough land that all the spent fuel that can go into dry cask could be placed on their property, and it would take a couple days of searching to find it.  
2.  There is really a lot of uranium in the world, and it isn't that expensive to get it.  Even with the price of enriching, brand new fuel is cheap enough that reprocessing is hard pressed to compete.  It competes very well for highly enriched fuel, such as the Navy uses, but for commercial fuel it isn't an economic winner, at the moment.
3.  The longer you put off reprocessing, the easier it gets.  Imagine what a reprocessing plant designed with today's tech would be, compared one designed 50 years ago.  Also, well-aged fuel is easier to handle: the stuff you don't want decays away, the stuff you do want doesn't (much).

It annoys me that there is so much straining at gnats and swallowing camels in the "discussion" of SNF, and so little rational thought.

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Miller, Mark L
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 12:49 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: [ RadSafe ] Danger of nuclear fuel storage at Columbia Generating Station

Mike has a good point.  HOWEVER, I think Jimmy Carter could explain WHY GE's design, which was probably predicated on the expectation of REPROCESSING the fuel, would NOT have resulted in its being stored there for long periods!  Just one of the many unintended consequences of his decision to halt used fuel reprocessing.
On Nov 24, 2014, at 2:23 PM, Brennan, Mike (DOH) wrote:

> While I have to admit not being surprised that a study funded by anti-nuke groups concludes that (fill in the blank) is too dangerous and ought to be shut down, I have to say that spent fuel pools in the upper stories of structures have never struck be as the best of ideas.  I recognize that it is keen to be able to move fuel from in the reactor to in the pool without lifting it out of the water.  However, after a couple of years to cool so it isn't just crazy radioactive it would also be keen if it were somewhere else.  I know about dry cask storage, and very much approve, but there could be an in-ground pool, not inside the reactor building, where the fuel could chill for the few more years needed before it is ready for dry cask.  If the fuel was moved one or two assemblies at a time shielding and cooling wouldn't be a big problem.   
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