Tag Archives: underground disposal of nuclear waste

Throwing Money at Nuclear Waste

Japan seeks final resting place for highly radioactive nuclear waste
…[W]ith a number of Japan’s nuclear reactors closed down for good in the wake of the Fukushima accident, the need for a permanent storage site is more pressing than ever.

The disaster, in which a 13-meter tsunami triggered by an off-shore earthquake crippled four reactors at the plant and caused massive amounts of radioactivity to escape into the atmosphere, also underlined just how seismically unstable the Japanese archipelago is and the need for the repository to be completely safe for 100,000 years.

“They have been trying to get this plan of the ground for years and one thing they tried was to offer money to any town or village that agreed to even undergo a survey to see if their location was suitable,” she said.  “There were a number of mayors who accepted the proposal because they wanted the money – even though they had no intention of ever agreeing to host the storage site – but the backlash from their constituents was fast and it was furious,” Smith added.  “In every case, those mayors reversed their decisions and the government has got nowhere,” she said. “But I fear that means that sooner or later they are just going to make a decision on a site and order the community to accept it.”

The security requirements of the facility will be exacting, the government has stated, and the site will need to be at least 300 meters beneath the surface in a part of the country that is not subject to seismic activity from active faults or volcanoes. It must also be safe from the effects of erosion and away from oil and coal fields. Another consideration is access and sites within 20 km of the coast are preferred.

The facility will need to be able to hold 25,000 canisters of vitrified high-level waste, while more waste will be produced as the nation’s nuclear reactors are slowly brought back online after being mothballed since 2011 for extensive assessments of their safety and ability to withstand a natural disaster on the same scale as the magnitude-9 earthquake that struck Fukushima.

When it is released, the government’s list is likely to include places in Tohoku and Hokkaido as among the most suitable sites, because both are relatively less populated than central areas of the country and are in need of revitalization efforts. Parts of Tohoku close to the Fukushima plant may eventually be chosen because they are still heavily contaminated with radiation from the accident.

Excerpts from Japan seeks final resting place for highly radioactive nuclear waste, Deutsche Welle, May 4, 2017

Isolating Nuclear Waste for 15 Billion Years

Hanford Nuclear Waste Storage Tanks

Professor Ashutosh Goel at Rutgers University is the primary inventor of a new method to immobilize radioactive iodine in ceramics at room temperature and six glass-related research projects …Developing ways to immobilize iodine-129 found in nuclear waste,...is crucial for its safe storage and disposal in underground geological formations. The half-life of iodine-129 is 15.7 million years, and it can disperse rapidly in air and water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If it’s released into the environment, iodine will linger for millions of years. Iodine targets the thyroid gland and can increase the chances of getting cancer.

Among Goel’s major funders is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees one of the world’s largest nuclear cleanups following 45 years of producing nuclear weapons. The national weapons complex once had 16 major facilities that covered vast swaths of Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington state, according to the DOE.

The agency says the Hanford site in southeastern Washington, which manufactured more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel for nine nuclear reactors near the Columbia River, is its biggest cleanup challenge.  Hanford plants processed 110,000 tons of fuel from the reactors. Some 56 million gallons of radioactive waste – enough to fill more than 1 million bathtubs – went to 177 large underground tanks. As many as 67 tanks – more than one third – are thought to have leaked, the DOE says. The liquids have been pumped out of the 67 tanks, leaving mostly dried solids…

“What we’re talking about here is highly complex, multicomponent radioactive waste which contains almost everything in the periodic table,” Goel said. “What we’re focusing on is underground and has to be immobilized.”

One of his inventions involves mass producing chemically durable apatite minerals, or glasses, to immobilize iodine without using high temperatures. A second innovation deploys synthesizing apatite minerals from silver iodide particles. He’s also studying how to immobilize sodium and alumina in high-level radioactive waste in borosilicate glasses that resist crystallization.

Excerpt from Professor Ashutosh Goel Invents Method to Contain Radioactive Iodine, Rutgers School of Engineering Press Release, Nov. 2016

The Disposal of Nuclear Waste in the UK: the policy of voluntarism

Romney Marsh in Kent, one of England’s most peaceful areas and most wildlife-rich wetlands, has been suggested as a site for Britain’s future nuclear waste dump.  Ten thousand letters have been sent to residents of the area by the local district council, Folkestone-based Shepway, canvassing their views about siting the proposed Nuclear Research and Disposal Facility in the geological strata deep beneath the marsh.  The council, which does not yet have a formal position on the idea, thinks that hosting the dump could be a way of replacing up to 1,000 jobs likely to be lost from the closure of the two local nuclear power stations, Dungeness A and B, and wants to know what local people think.

After decades of uncertainty about what to do with Britain’s 60-year legacy of dangerous radioactive waste – which is mainly spent fuel from atomic power stations, scattered across the country at numerous sites – the Government decided in 2006 that it would all be brought together and held in a “geological disposal facility” – a repository deep underground.

Finding a site acceptable to local people was always going to be the major difficulty, and in a White Paper published in 2008 the Government decided on an approach of “voluntarism” – inviting all local authorities to express an interest themselves in hosting the dump. It was understood that the Government would provide substantial economic benefits in return.  So far, only three local authorities have expressed interest, all of them in the area of the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria – Allerdale and Copeland Borough Councils, and Cumbria County Council.

The fact that solidly-Tory Shepway – Tory majority, 44 out of 46 council seats, with two independents – is now showing stirrings of interest is something of a breakthrough, and was specifically welcomed yesterday by the Energy Minister, Charles Hendry. “This is potentially a multi-billion pound development that could guarantee high quality employment and the retention of nuclear industry skills in the area for many decades,” he said.  However, not all local people are so keen. “This is an entirely ludicrous proposal,” said retired businessman Peter Morris, who lives on the edge of the marsh.  “This is an area of rich agricultural land with diverse protected habitats and unique species. It is simply the wrong place to store nuclear waste. It would mean bringing the waste from right across Britain, probably through London.”  He added: “Most of Romney Marsh is either at sea level or below sea level. With global warming it seems likely it would be extremely vulnerable to coastal flooding and I’m not aware of any studies which have shown otherwise.”   In a statement yesterday, Shepway said that a waste store “would place nuclear waste in secure containers deep underground in vaults and tunnels. At ground level there would be buildings housing research, office, transport and other facilities.”

Shepway councillor David Godfrey, who was raised on Romney Marsh and whose first job was surveying the Dungeness A Construction, said. “The council does not have a formal view about whether the Marsh should host a Nuclear Research and Disposal Facility. Our only view is that local people should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves if it is worth discussing the idea further. If the people of the Marsh do not support an Expression of Interest, things will end there.”  He added: “If the community does support an Expression of Interest, [the Department of energy and Climate Change] will commission experts to see whether the geology accessible from the Marsh is potentially suitable.

Michael McCarthy, Romney Marsh set to become nuclear dump, the Independent, May 17, 2012

Nuclear Waste and Scotland