Nuclear author William Tucker finds that There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste
- Edited by Mark McFadden -
William Tucker, is the author of "Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America's Long Energy Odyssey." A Nuclear Street Review of this popular book can be found here. Mr. Tucker wrote en excellent opinion piece for this morning's Wall Street Journal. In the article Tucker observes the following:
'White House Buries Yucca," read the headlines last week after Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said the proposed storage of nuclear waste in a Nevada mountain is "no longer an option."
Instead, Mr. Chu told a Senate hearing, the Obama administration will cut all but the most rudimentary funding to Yucca and be content to allow spent fuel rods to sit in storage pools and dry casks at reactor sites "while the administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal."
Tucker asks "So is this really the death knell for nuclear power? Not at all. The repository at Yucca Mountain was only made necessary by our failure to understand a fundamental fact about nuclear power:
Tucker points out that "There is no such thing as nuclear waste. Ninety-five percent of a spent fuel rod is plain old U-238, the nonfissionable variety that exists in granite tabletops, stone buildings and the coal burned in coal plants to generate electricity. Uranium-238 is 1% of the earth's crust. It could be put right back in the ground where it came from."
"Of the remaining 5% of a rod, one-fifth is fissionable U-235 -- which can be recycled as fuel. Another one-fifth is plutonium, also recyclable as fuel. Much of the remaining three-fifths has important uses as medical and industrial isotopes. Forty percent of all medical procedures in this country now involve some form of radioactive isotope, and nuclear medicine is a $4 billion business. Unfortunately, we must import all our tracer material from Canada, because all of our isotopes have been headed for Yucca Mountain."
"What remains after all this material has been extracted from spent fuel rods are some isotopes for which no important uses have yet been found, but which can be stored for future retrieval," says Tucker.
Tucker concludes on a positive note:
"So shed no tears for Yucca Mountain. Instead of ending the nuclear revival, it gives us the chance to correct a historical mistake and follow France's lead in developing complete reprocessing for nuclear material."
Mr. Tucker is author of "Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America's Long Energy Odyssey" (Bartleby, 2008).
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