by Marcel F. Williams
A typical 1000 MWe nuclear power plant produces about 30 tonnes of highly radioactive spent fuel on an annual basis. However, a coal powered facility of equal capacity produces more than 400,000 tonnes of waste material (ash) annually that contains more than 100 times more radioactive waste (uranium, thorium, radon) than a nuclear power plant.
In fact, all of the spent fuel so far produced in the US could fit into a football field just 10 meters high. And if this fuel was reprocessed, then the volume could be reduced by at least a factor of ten. So you could easily store all nuclear waste material in fortified cask at just one nuclear facility.
Nuclear waste locations within the continental US
But Yucca Mountain is clearly not the long term solution for radioactive waste within the US.
My solution to this problem would be to:
1. To mandate that all radioactive waste material that exist within the geographic territory of a state be kept within that state at environmentally secured federal, state, or private facilities for up to 200 years.
2. I'd allow states that posses radioactive waste to petition the federal government to fund, construct, operate, and secure federal radioactive waste repositories within their states designed to securely house radioactive material for up to 200 years.
3. Alternatively, states could petition the federal government to build a-- nuclear energy park-- within their state to house and reprocess all of their nuclear waste for fuel which could then be utilized on site. A nuclear energy park would consist of 10 to 40 reactors and would be utilized to produce regional electric power, ammonia for agricultural fertilizer and hydrogen for the production of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and aviation fuel through biomass or through the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Adding hydrogen to biomass increases the efficiency of synthetic fuel production by 3 to 5 times.
4. After 200 years, the waste would be removed from the state repositories or nuclear parks for final deposition. Final deposition could be extraterrestrial disposal using 23rd century space technology, or deep sea disposal, or disposal on a tiny island.
Of course, much of this radioactive material may be deemed too valuable to throw away a few centuries from now. Who knows, the humans and industries of the 23rd century might even pay big bucks for what 21st century humans use to call nuclear waste:-)
References and Links
A New Papyrus Publication