Daily Archives: October 11, 2011

Nuclear Waste in Limbo, poor future generations

The issue of disposal/storage of nuclear wastes at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, United States is one issue that unites  pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear residents.  After years of controversy and technical problems, the Obama administration has canceled plans to build a permanent underground nuclear storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. A blue-ribbon task force was convened last year to determine alternative storage options.

The task force recommends continuing to store the waste onsite at the power plants where it was created or storing it in a small number of regional above-ground facilities until a permanent solution is found. Permanent options include underground storage at a different location or repossessing the used fuel into new fuel.  “Extended onsite storage is a very real possibility,” said Jack Davis with the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.  NRC officials told an audience of about 50 members of the public Thursday that the agency is examining the technical issues of storing and transporting nuclear waste for extended periods of time. For planning purposes, the NRC is looking at the possibility of storing waste onsite for as long as 300 years after a power plant shuts down.

Technical issues to be examined include the ability of the dry casks to absorb heat and withstand corrosion, and natural external forces such as floods and earthquakes.  Nuclear waste storage at Diablo Canyon is typical of the industry. Used reactor assemblies are initially stored in cooling pools and later in large steel-and-concrete canisters.  Dry-cask storage is considered a safer method for long-term storage. The NRC licenses dry-cask facilities initially for 20 years followed by 40-year renewal increments.  Several people urged the NRC to accelerate transfer of used fuel from the pools to dry casks as a safety measure. Like many plants, Diablo Canyon’s spent fuel pools are near their maximum storage capacity.  The NRC and nuclear industry have resisted accelerated transfer due to the cost and the need to load a combination of older and newer spent fuel in each cask. Klaus Schumann of Paso Robles said the problem of the fuel’s age could be overcome by loading fewer assemblies per cask or using casks that are more heat resistant.  The NRC expects to complete the process of updating its long-term waste storage and transportation policies in 2018.

David Sneed, Nuclear regulatory agency shares spent fuel concerns,sanluisobispo.com, Oct. 6, 2011