Fast breeder nuclear reactors – the PRISM is not the answer to UK’s nuclear waste pile
Adrian Simper, the strategy director of the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, warned last November in an internal memorandum that fast reactors were “not credible” as a solution to Britain’s plutonium problem because they had “still to be demonstrated commercially” and could not be deployed within 25 years.
the plutonium metal, once prepared for the reactor, would be even more vulnerable to theft for making bombs than the powdered oxide.
Are fast-breeder reactors the answer to our nuclear waste nightmare? The Guardian 30 July 12 The battle is intensifying on a decision over a major fast-breeder reactor to deal with the plutonium waste at Sellafield. Fred Pearce “…….Britain has a history of embarrassing failures with MOX, including the closure last year of a $2 billion blending plant that spent 10 years producing a scant amount of fuel. And critics say that, even if it works properly, MOX fuel is an expensive way of generating not much energy, while leaving most of the plutonium intact, albeit in a less dangerous form.
Only fast reactors can consume the plutonium. Many think that will ultimately be the UK choice. If so, the PRISM plant would take five years to license, five years to build, and could destroy probably the world’s most dangerous stockpile of plutonium by the end of the 2020s. GEH has not publicly put a cost on building the plant, but it says it will foot the bill, with the British government only paying by results, as the plutonium is destroyed.
The idea of fast breeders as the ultimate goal of nuclear power engineering goes back to the 1950s, when experts predicted that fast-breeders would generate all Britain’s electricity by the 1970s. But the Clinton administration eventually shut down the U.S.’s research program in 1994. Britain followed soon after, shutting its Dounreay fast-breeder reactor on the north coast of Scotland in 1995. Other countries have continued with fast-breeder research programs, including France, China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Russia, which has been running a plant at Sverdlovsk for 32 years…..
Proponents of fast reactors see them as the nuclear application of one of the totems of environmentalism: recycling. But many technologists, and most environmentalists, are more skeptical.
The skeptics include Adrian Simper, the strategy director of the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which will be among those organizations deciding whether to back the PRISM plan. Simper warned last November in an internal memorandum that fast reactors were “not credible” as a solution to Britain’s plutonium problem because they had “still to be demonstrated commercially” and could not be deployed within 25 years.
The technical challenges include the fact that it would require converting the plutonium powder into a metal alloy, with uranium and zirconium. This would be a large-scale industrial activity on its own that would create “a likely large amount of plutonium-contaminated salt waste,” Simper said.
Simper is also concerned that the plutonium metal, once prepared for the reactor, would be even more vulnerable to theft for making bombs than the powdered oxide. This view is shared by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the U.S., which argues that plutonium liberated from spent fuel in preparation for recycling “would be dangerously vulnerable to theft or misuse.”….
Another criticism is the more general one that the nuclear industry has a track record of delivering late and wildly over budget — and often not delivering at all.
John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK, and Paul Dorfman, British nuclear policy analyst at the University of Warwick, England, argued recently that this made all nuclear options a poor alternative to renewables in delivering low-carbon energy. “Even if these latest plans could be made to work, PRISM reactors do nothing to solve the main problems with nuclear: the industry’s repeated failure to build reactors on time and to budget,” they wrote in a letter to the Guardian newspaper. “We are being asked to wait while an industry that has a track record for very costly failures researches yet another much-hyped but still theoretical new technology.”
Have a look…this report was done for Rokkasho:
So are you proposing a technology that will leave us with more dangerous waste than we have already?
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