Suggestion to dump nuclear wastes into salt deposits

The reasonable thing to do is to stop making nuclear wastes

Where On Earth Do We Put Spent Nuclear Fuel? Forbes, 29 Aug 13 If Nevada’s Harry Reid is right and Yucca Mountain is flattened, then what will happen to the nation’s 70,000-plus tons of nuclear waste? The Senate Majority Leader is adamant that such spent fuel from the country’s 102 nuclear plants will never find a permanent home in that area that is 90 miles outside of Las Vegas…….

Consider: the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Program (WIPP), a massive salt formation in southeastern New Mexico that has been accepting waste from nuclear weapons for 14 years. But it is not permitted to take in low-level spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors.

As Conca explains, WIPP is 16 square miles of a 10,000-square mile, 2,000-foot thick salt layer. Those materials that are placed there are engulfed by the natural geology — the tightest rock on earth. The main obstacle, he adds, is the administrative changes necessary to allow the transport and disposal of spent fuel from the current interim sites to WIPP. Political resistance would also arise.

But massive salt formations are better repositories than the hard rock at Yucca Mountain, he insists, noting that rocks can fracture whereas salt does not. The best salt formations are in New Mexico and Texas.

Conca agrees that taking reprocessed nuclear fuel and using it in a nuclear power plant is less difficult than applying the same material to an atomic weapon. But WIPP changes the equation, he says, noting that, “there is so much uranium in the world that we don’t need to reprocess it. Mining the uranium is so much easier and so much cheaper than reprocessing it.”…..

Legally, Yucca Mountain remains a live topic but politically, it stands little chance of becoming permanent repository, especially because the Senate Majority Leader represents Nevada. But that debate over what to do with spent nuclear fuel has spawned some compelling ideas, some of which have been around for a while.

Reconciling the reprocessing fissures is likely to take decades. But broadening the use of massive salt deposits such as WIPP to include not just weapons-grade material but also radioactive fuel from commercial reactors would be an easier gulf to bridge.


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