Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear plant where 2 explosions occurred

Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear plant where 2 explosions occurred

Damaged reactor at Jdpanese nuclear plant
Damaged reactor at Jdpanese nuclear plant
I don’t really know what to write about today. All I can think of is the Japan earthquake, tsunami and now the nuclear reactors there are failing. 

 

I never thought that using nuclear material for energy generation was a good idea. It has been over 60 years and they still do not know what to do with the waste, let alone what to do in a situation like the Japanese are now facing. The earthquake damaged the reactors and cut off electricity and then the tsunami destroyed the on-site backup generators.

Now the innocent people around the nuclear reactors will pay the price. Already some have been tested positive for radiation exposure.

 

The nuclear monster never was really under the control of humanity. How long have humans been around with the ability to record our history and build machines? About 5,500 years?  How long will the waste from the nuclear plants have to be kept cooled and safe?

It’s been many years since I read articles on this topic, but what I recall is that 20,000 or more years are required to monitor the waste. The containers it is in will not last that long.

But I am doing some research this morning on the internet – I see some sites say the waste is safe and harmless. It is contained in steel or copper containers and buried deep and in 50 years will pose no hazard. In fact, one site says most of the waste is re-used and so it’s really a renewable re-source, I guess. The following is an article from Wikipedia on this topic:

Fuel composition and long term radioactivity

Activity of U-233 for three fuel types

Total activity for three fuel types

Long-lived radioactive waste from the back end of the fuel cycle is especially relevant when designing a complete waste management plan for spent nuclear fuel (SNF). When looking at long term radioactive decay, the actinides in the SNF have a significant influence due to their characteristically long half-lives. Depending on what a nuclear reactor is fueled with, the actinide composition in the SNF will be different.

An example of this effect is the use of nuclear fuels with thorium. Th-232 is a fertile material that can undergo a neutron capture reaction and two beta minus decays, resulting in the production of fissile U-233. The SNF of a cycle with thorium will contain U-233, an isotope with a half-life of maximum 20 years. Its radioactive decay will strongly influence the long-term activity curve of the SNF around 1 million years. A comparison of the activity associated to U-233 for three different SNF types can be seen in the figure on the top right.

The burnt fuels are thorium with reactor-grade plutonium (RGPu), thorium with weapons-grade plutonium (WGPu) and Mixed Oxide fuel (MOX). For RGPu and WGPu, the initial amount of U-233 and its decay around 1 million years can be seen. This has an effect in the total activity curve of the three fuel types. The absence of U-233 and its daughter products in the MOX fuel results in a lower activity in region 3 of the figure on the bottom right, whereas for RGPu and WGPu the curve is maintained higher due to the presence of U-233 that has not fully decayed.

 The use of different fuels in nuclear reactors results in different SNF composition, with varying activity curves.

The real question that I have always been concerned about is this: How long until the nuclear reactor waste materials are safe for humans to be around?  With radioactive materials, it seems there is not a quick answer.

In reviewing many articles on this topic off the internet, I get answers everywhere from “Don’t worry, it’s already safe, we encase the waste in glass and bury it deep underground.” (Which in America we do not.) The other extreme is it will take 6,000,000 years. In reading these articles, I will take the more conservative estimate, that of 1,000,000 years.

Good; that makes me feel better. Humans have been on earth with the ability to build machines and record our history for 5,500 years, and we can’t seem to stop killing each other in constant wars, but I should believe that our descendants, for the next 1 million years will get it together and keep that radioactive waste safe.  I guess those steel containers and glass enclosures will never rust or break. I feel so much better.

Just for your information, I live in Washington State. In the late 1940’s the government built Hanford, one of the first (if not the first) nuclear production complex. The site contains 53 million gallons of radioactive waste materials that has been leaking and burping nuclear waste into the atmosphere and into the groundwater for 40 years. It has reached the Columbia River by now, and I would not want to live downstream of the nuclear site. I have been told that it is impossible to clean up the waste.

Feel better now?  Why don’t we just use less electricity?  Has anyone considere that option? For many thousands of years humans lived without any, couldn’t we just cut down?  And while we’re at it, it would help a lot if we’d just quit having so many kids.

Will we learn before it’s too late?

pissed off hamster

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