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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rods that won't be ramblin'

There's an interesting story up on LocalNewsDaily today about the impending demolition of another structure in the old Trojan Nuclear Power Plant complex. Alas, it might as well have been written by the PGE public relations department, as it displays a decided absence of critical thinking.

"I have to say this: If Chernobyl had containment like this, there would have essentially been no environmental impact offsite," said Jay Fischer, recalling the massive nuclear meltdown that occurred in 1986 in the former Soviet Union. Fischer is in charge of managing the storage system for spent radioactive fuel rods that remain onsite....

In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy is expected to submit a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that starts the ball rolling toward a 2017 opening of Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

If the timeline holds, the first delivery of spent fuel from Trojan to Nevada by rail will happen in 2021.

But until the last of 34 concrete casks containing the spent radioactive wastes is removed from the site in 2031, PGE will continue as steward for the casks, each a part of what is called the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation.

"All of the nuclear plants across the country are certainly looking at that schedule, you can be sure," said Fischer of the 2017 opening of Yucca Mountain. Fischer manages the ISFSI.

The Yucca Mountain spent fuel "repository" is a political pipedream that will probably never become reality. The "timeline" has been changed just about every year for the last 20 years. Those spent fuel assemblies ain't goin' nowhere, my friend.

As for the plant having been able to withstand a Chernobyl meltdown, that sounds like another one of those myriad PGE Trojan lies that we heard over the years. The only good thing is that we didn't have to find out whether it was true.

At least for now. As our oil supply sources shut down on us, and the drumbeat of global warming grows ever louder, you can bet that the nuke boys and girls will be back strong, and soon. I'm sure there'll be another nuclear power plant on the Columbia somewhere before too long.

Comments (26)

"I'm sure there'll be another nuclear power plant on the Columbia somewhere before too long."

You say that as if that's a bad thing. With global warming racing down upon us faster than a freight train, and with oil going away faster than the spotted owl, we need alt energy asap, or even sooner.

Nukes are a proven, renewable, safe, alternative fuel source that does not pollute the environment.

What's not to like?

Serious risks of various environmental catastrophes, is all. Except for operational safety and hideous waste disposal issues, it's wonderful.

Jack, you're thinking (I hope) about 50 year old technology. Believe it or not, the industry has learned from its mistakes. New reactor designs are much safer and more efficient. No smoke, no dead fish, no dead birds, no mercury, no use of coal, natural gas, etc.

It's not as if Japan and much of Europe glow in the dark.

Of course if you'll only accept 100% safety, then there's no source you'll like.
Even your campfire is hazardous, Dan'l.

I'll resist contrasting your position on this with your telephones/blogs comparison the other day since I'm sensitive that way.

It is amazing that some people still believe that nuclear power plants are dangerous. Chernobyl was a mess, but what do you expect from a Communist-constructed facility that wasn't even built to the applicable codes even though they were considerably less stringent then the norm? If the Portland City Council was building one, I too would be worried, but with so many nations having long, accident-free records with nuclear plants, those who fear them reside solidly in the Luddite camp.

"..Chernobyl was a mess, but what do you expect from a Communist-constructed facility...If the Portland City Council was building one, I too would be worried..

So, may I infer from the above that "Communist-constructed" and "Portland City Council building" are one in the same?

New reactor designs are much safer

That isn't saying much.

Plus, nobody has an answer for the waste. Probably never will.

When another nuclear plant comes on line in France next year, they will have 76% (56 plants) of their power provided from the atom. How many environmental catastrophes have they had in the past that we are not being told about? I'll bet Cheney is helping them in the coverups!

Actually, Jack, you don't seem to be up to speed on the technology. Most countries that make extensive use of nukes reprocess the rods to produce more fuel - the USA stuffs them into tanks and hopes they'll just go away.

Much of Europe and Japan depend upon clean, reliable nuclear energy, while in the USA, uninformed nuts seem to rule the energy field. The adherents to the Religion of anthropogenic Global Warming claim that CO2 is the main culprit - it isn't, but let's entertain the idea - so coal-fired energy plants, which account for around 40% of Northwest energy generation, must be taken out. As well, hydropower isn't considered "green" enough.

Okay, that accounts for around 90% of Northwest power generation.

And nuke plants are horrible, as well.

Y'know...I'm getting pretty tired of folks who see nothing but "problems", yet never seem to find any solutions for the "problems" they make up.

Reprocessing nuclear waste is even more dirty and dangerous than running the power plants. It's how nuclear weapons are made, and just look at the disaster we've made of places like Hanford. And there is still lots and lots of terminally deadly waste left over after reprocessing. Sorry, but the little "made-up problem" of nuclear waste is the fatal flaw for most folks. Rightly so.

You nuke heads are the world's biggest twisters and liars. If you'd just start telling the truth, maybe somebody in this country would listen to you.

Whatever happend to progressives loving all things French? Fully 35% of their electricity is supplied by nuclear power plants.

If you don't like atomic energy, you'd better become a "clean coal" supporter. Because coal is the alternative domestic source of electricity production for the next 300 years.

Vive la France!

Here's a thoughtful analysis of the amount of nuclear energy produced in France. 78% is an often quoted, albeit mistaken, statistic.


Nuclear fuel in the Columbia Gen Station nuke plant by Richland, WA is in the plant for six years...then goes into ISFSI canisters. That fuel retains more than 90 percent of its energy. Recycling that fuel captures that energy and leaves a "waste" stream of about 4-6 percent...better than storing the full 100 percent...wouldn't you say? Oh, btw, a boiling water reactor produces (and burns up) plutonium toward the end of its fuel cycle. Ain't nearly as dangerous as you self-proclaimed experts try to claim... Hey, why doesn't PGE send that fuel off to France, have them recycle it and send it to Columbia Gen Station to fuel that reactor..or some reactor in Europe? And guess what, more people die on WA and OR highways EVERY DAY than in the operation of all 100+ nuclear power plants in the U.S. over the last 20+ years...not safe?

There exist reasonable - though by no means perfect - solutions to the big problems with nuclear power.

Sufficient operational safety is pretty well demonstrated elsewhere, and there exist designs like the "pebble bed" which are highly resistant to meltdown even with complete coolant loss. Waste disposal is a serious problem still, but at some point we're going to have to accept that Yucca Mountain is Close Enough and start using it... or start reprocessing.

I'm not a big fan of adding new nuke plants, but it's an alternative that shouldn't be dismissed out-of-hand.

Beats a long series of wars over the remaining easy oilfields.

Yucca Mountain is Close Enough and start using it... or start reprocessing.

Both dubious. Cannisters all over the country is where things stand, and where they will likely stay for the next 50 years. Of course, that leaves 19,950 years to continue worrying about that crap.

So now PGE is back to calling it a "containment"? I thought the PR spin doctors had long ago banished this word from their lexicon and preferred instead to call it a "reactor vessel". Much less Chernobyl-ish.

Same goes for the term "scramming" the reactor - the proper usage is now "reactor trip".

I posted this comment on another nuke-related post above but thought it might be relevant here as well.

"There is only one option for nuclear power in this country (unless and until the horrendous toxicity issues are satisfactorily resolved) and this 20-second video shows what that option is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr2TFLlA3jA "

We've befouled the atmosphere with carbon emissions. Now it's time to radiate the sub-surface with nuclear reactor waste. Thats the ticket. I shudder every time I hear about curbing our addiction to fossil fuel. Code for re-invigorate the nuke industry. I pray there's a better solution to our energy needs.

I pray there's a better solution to our energy needs.

While you're praying, you'd better rub your hands together to keep them warm.

Funny how prayer crops up in the strangest places...

I'm not a big fan of adding new nuke plants, but it's an alternative that shouldn't be dismissed out-of-hand.

Dismissal "out-of-hand" would be much easier to accept than this.

"Now it's time to radiate the sub-surface with nuclear reactor waste."

Umm. You do realize that uranium is a naturally-occurring substance that's only one of many radioactive minerals? That there have existed - and may exist somewhere today - completely natural fission reactors underground? The sub-surface gets irradiated all the time.

Our problem is that we have a large amount of extremely concentrated radioactives to get rid of. Wishing will not make it go away. We'll have to deal with the existing problem responsibly, or hand it off as yet another problem we've left for our grandkids.

If Yucca Mountain isn't good enough, then tell me please what is good enough?

The sub-surface gets irradiated all the time.

More technically true but misleading information.

The alpha radiation emitted by uranium in its natural state is laughable compared to the penetrating radiation emitted by nuclear waste.

There is no legitimate comparison.

Even gamma radiation is stopped by large masses of rock. [shrug] The same stuff you're worried about is now hanging out on the old Trojan site. If it wouldn't be acceptably safe under Yucca Mountain, then how can it be acceptably safe where it now sits?

The stuff exists, even if we never make more. Are we gonna punt this problem down the years, or deal with it as best we know how?

(By the way, I am not an industry shill of any kind; I don't have anything to do with the power biz beyond being a PGE ratepayer. I'm actually kind of an greenie, although more pragmatic than most. I know you know that, but the way the other article reads I want to be sure I'm not being lumped in with others alleged to be here.)

The Yucca Mountain plan is inferior to what we have now. Its ridiculous premise is that the spent fuel should be made permanently irretrievable. And so if something goes wrong in the dump, there will be no way to remedy it.

Then there's the matter of the waste leaching into the water table. Yucca is supposedly dry enough that this won't be a problem, but that's not universally accepted as a fact. Moreover, given the radical climate changes that are currently under way, that doesn't seem like a good bet for the future.

Not to mention putting all those spent fuel rods on the highways. Trouble waiting to happen.

Above-ground monitored retrievable storage is what we have, will have for a long time, and probably should have, since the out-of-sight/out-of-mind Yucca plan is deeply flawed.

The nuclear industry is the only energy undustry worldwide that CAN NOT be insured by the regular companies. It only survives by gov handouts. I wonder why?

Yes Jack, I'm still alive and decided to drop by.

I'm sure that you will be shocked and amazed to hear that I support nuclear energy. But I think that the new nukes will be something along the lines of these things rather than an updated Trojan clone. They would also make a big difference in another facet of power distribution, transmission lines. Instead of having to build massive networks of transmission lines you could have these things buried all over the place providing energy locally.

Of course, even this would not measure up to the demands that we fight global warming by living in holes in the ground, eating insects and heating our hovels with power derived from fairy dust and drum circles.

Also there is the chance that I am wrong and some smart greenie is going to develop the world's first energy source fueled with Philosophers Stones, has no emissions and is perfectly safe for kittens and fish. A working perpetual motion machine. Every household could have one parked in their garage next to their Star Trek transporter.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas (unless that offends druids or something)

"[...] the world's first energy source fueled with Philosophers Stones [...]"

Good lord, man! Don't you know how many toxic chemicals are used in alchemical manufacturing processes?

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