Australian news, and some related international items

Dr Jim Green debunks the claims about Integral Fast Reactors solving the nuclear waste problme

James Hansen’s Generation IV nuclear fallacies and fantasies, Jim Green, REneweconomy, 28 Aug 2017,

“…….Hansen claims that “modern nuclear technology can … solve the waste disposal problem by burning current waste and using fuel more efficiently” and he states that nuclear waste “is not waste, it is fuel for 4th generation reactors!”

But even if IFRs ‒ Hansen’s favoured Generation IV concept ‒ worked as hoped, they would still leave residual actinides, and long-lived fission products, and long-lived intermediate-level waste in the form of reactor and reprocessing components … all of it requiring deep geological disposal. UC Berkeley nuclear engineer Prof. Per Peterson states: “Even integral fast reactors (IFRs), which recycle most of their waste, leave behind materials that have been contaminated by transuranic elements and so cannot avoid the need to develop deep geologic disposal.”

So if IFRs don’t obviate the need for deep geological repositories, what problem do they solve? They don’t solve the WMD proliferation problem associated with nuclear power. They would make more efficient use of uranium … but uranium is plentiful.

In theory, IFRs would gobble up nuclear waste and convert it into low-carbon electricity. In practice, the EBR-II reactor in Idaho ‒ an IFR prototype, shut down in 1994 ‒ has left a legacy of troublesome waste.

This saga is detailed in a recent article and a longer report by the Union of Concerned Scientists’ senior scientist Dr Ed Lyman. Lyman statesthat attempts to treat IFR spent fuel with pyroprocessing have not made management and disposal of the spent fuel simpler and safer, they have “created an even bigger mess”.

Lyman concludes:

“Everyone with an interest in pyroprocessing should reassess their views given the real-world problems experienced in implementing the technology over the last 20 years at [Idaho National Laboratory]. They should also note that the variant of the process being used to treat the EBR-II spent fuel is less complex than the process that would be needed to extract plutonium and other actinides to produce fresh fuel for fast reactors. In other words, the technology is a long way from being demonstrated as a practical approach for electricity production.”

Japan is about to get first-hand experience of the waste legacy associated with Generation IV reactors in light of the decision to decommission the Monju fast neutron reactor. Decommissioning Monju has a hefty price-tag ‒ far more than for conventional light-water reactors. According to a 2012 estimate by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, decommissioning Monju will cost an estimated ¥300 billion (A$3.5bn). That estimate includes ¥20 billion to remove spent fuel from the reactor ‒ but no allowance is made for the cost of disposing of the spent fuel, and in any case Japan has no deep geological repository to dispose of the waste….


August 28, 2017 - Posted by | General News

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