3.2.12

Nuclear vs Nuclear vs Nuclear by George Monbiot

I think this is one of the most important posts on the issues of nuclear waste disposal I've read in a long time.  My favourite scientist James Lovelock has long supported Nuclear Power as the only conceivable way to generate sufficient energy while addressing Co2 emissions.  George here proposes support for one of the three options on the table to do with dealing with nuclear waste in the long term. Integral Fast Reactors were recently mooted by the Government's Chief Scientist as capable of producing all our energy needs for the next 500 years (!!! My italics!)
This needs serious attention.  The other two options of burying it in a big hole and 'Moxing' it have few advantages and many negatives.  At last there's something of a technical fix in actuality rather than on the horizon.  It should be supported and encouraged by all of us...vigorously.
Nuclear vs Nuclear vs Nuclear

From The Guardian's Duncan Clark 2.212  "In the proposal currently under discussion, a pair of Prism reactors would be installed at Sellafield and optimised to consume the plutonium stockpile as quickly as possible. If, however, the government decided to prioritise low-carbon power generation rather than rapid waste disposal, a larger number of Prism reactors could theoretically be combined with a fuel recycling system to extract as much electricity as possible from the plutonium and depleted uranium.
According to figures calculated for the Guardian by the American writer and fast reactor advocate Tom Blees, this alternative approach could – given a large enough number of reactors – produce enough low-carbon electricity from Britain's waste stockpile to supply the UK at current rates of demand for more than 500 years.
MacKay (The Government's Chief Scientist HoB) confirmed this figure. "As an upper bound on what you could get from those resources in fast reactors I think it's a very reasonable estimate. In reality you'd get all kinds of issues so you wouldn't achieve the upper bound but I still think it's a reasonable starting point."
But he added that free or low-cost fuel was not in itself sufficient to make inexpensive nuclear energy. "When you think about the economics of the low-carbon transition, it isn't the nuclear fuel that's the expensive bit – it's the power stations and the other facilities that go with them."
The cost of any Prism installation would depend on unknown quantities, including the details of the licensing requirements. However, Eric Loewen, chief engineer at GE Hitachi nuclear, claims that the technology should be economically competitive due to its small and fixed-size modular design, which allows it to be produced in an off-site factory.
MacKay said, "I think it's credible that it could be cheaper [than Mox] but it's up to GE to tell us the price tag". He added that the alternative option of making Mox would not be easy either. " You have to make a big facility to make the Mox fuel and you need to have a load of reactors that can accept the Mox fuel, and we don't have either of those in place yet."
MacKay also said that he supported "long-term research and development" into new reactor technologies that could be safer and more efficient than current designs.
He argued that such research should not be seen as a threat to renewable technologies such as wind and solar, which were crucial but not sufficient on their own to meet the UK's ambitious carbon targets."
"If you've seriously looked at ways of making plans that add up you come to the conclusion that you need almost everything and you need it very fast – right now. You need all the credible technologies that can develop at scale … I don't think anyone serious would say that we only need nuclear … but similarly I think it's unrealistic to say we could get there solely with renewables."
At last some bright people are starting to talk some sense.  Let's just hope our benighted politicians don't screw it up!

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