Letter to the Editor: There's no such thing as "nuclear waste"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

To the Editor:

Basically, there is no such thing as “nuclear waste.” Nearly all the material in a spent fuel rod is recyclable or easily handled.

Ninety-five percent of a spent fuel rod is U-238 — the same natural uranium that comes out of the ground. We could just put it back where it came from or recycle it.

The other 5 percent is fissionable U-235 (1 percent), various “fission products” from the breakdown of U-235 (2 percent), plus a group called the “minor actinides” which are formed when U-238 is transmuted into heavier, man-made elements (2 percent).

Among the minor actinides is plutonium (1 percent), one of whose isotopes can be used for making bombs.

Almost everything in a spent fuel rod can be recycled. The U- 235 can be used. So can the plutonium. Among the fission products and minor actinides there are lots of useful isotopes used in medicine and industrial procedures. Forty percent of all medical procedures now involve some radioactive isotope and nuclear medicine is a $250-billion industry.

Unfortunately, we must import all our medical isotopes from Canada because ours are all being treated as “nuclear waste.”

The French have complete recycling. They take plutonium from spent fuel, mix it with uranium depleted by enrichment, and call it “mixed oxide fuel.” It’s sold all over Europe and Japan. They’re also importing bomb-grade uranium from old Russian nuclear weapons, mixing it with the tailings from uranium mines (another “waste product”) and shipping it to the USA as reactor fuel.
So what’s left after reprocessing? Essentially nothing.

All of France’s nuclear waste from 25 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity is stored beneath the floor of one room at Le Hague. The lifetime output for each French citizen would fit in a soda can. That’s what the incredible energy density of nuclear power can do for the environment.

And, then, we have "wind machines"......

Jack Leicester


Anonymous,  August 28, 2010 at 8:50 AM  

I never knew, thanks for the information. As far as the wind machines, they are actually beautiful to look at.

Anonymous,  August 28, 2010 at 4:35 PM  

WOW! I'm so thankful to read all of this info!
Bummer that it has become divisive issue

Like the previous poster, I don't mind looking at the Wind Turbines...but, they're heck on the birds and aren't very efficient.

JEDH August 28, 2010 at 9:46 PM  

Interesting. So the pop can amount of waste is considered relatively safe to the ecosystem by most health experts?

And, is there still a way to clean up/recycle the Hanford mess and what is the holdup with that all about?

Anonymous,  August 29, 2010 at 7:27 AM  

Thanks Jack.

Could you please provide your sources for this information? Also, one soda can of waste per person is actually quite a lot of volume and space if you think about it.

JEDH August 30, 2010 at 8:33 PM  

Yes. Please post your references. Would love to read more.

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