Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Radioactive Rods at Fukushima
Right now we are talking about the end of the Nuclear Age. It was given a death blow with
and then its burial with the Rossi Focardi reactor. The big problem is then what do we do with
fuel, spent fuel and range of peripheral irradiated materials. Fukushima
The only good news is that we will stop making the problem larger.
This article puts it back into focue.
We need Canada and Australia to create a post nuclear disposal consortium which can undertake to recover and dispose of all such materials for a fee, There is a serious business there and the internal capacity to reprocess much of the material.
We will have to run some reactors for years to simply consume much of the fuel as was been done at
Once spent, the fuel will have to be reprocessed again and again to keep the
process going and to slowly eliminate all remaining fuel. Fukushima
We may even build specially reactors whose task is to polish off remaining radioactive material.
Then I wish they would reduce irradiated and totally spent material into small units and simply store them forever down deep inside mined out potash mines. We have plenty of room down there and it would be no big trick to fill mined out chambers with this junk.
Who Will Take the Radioactive Rods from
By Yoichi Shimatsu
URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25064
Global Research, May 31, 2011
The decommissioning of the
1 nuclear plant
is delayed by a single problem: Where to dispose of the uranium fuel rods? Many
of those rods are extremely radioactive and partially melted, and some contain
highly lethal plutonium. Fukushima
Besides the fissile fuel inside the plant's six reactors, more than 7 tons of spent rods have to be removed to a permanent storage site before workers can bury the
concrete. The rods cannot be permanently stored in Fukushima Japan because the country's new waste
storage centers on the northeast tip of Honshu
are built on unsuitable land. The floors of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility
and Mutsu storage unit are cracked from uneven sinking into the boggy soil.
Entombment of the rods inside the
reactors carries enormous risks because the footing of landfill cannot
support the weight of the fuel rods in addition to the reactors and cooling
water inside the planned concrete containment walls. The less reactive spent
fuel would have to be kept inside air-cooled dry casks. The powerful
earthquakes that frequently strike the Tohoku region will eventually undermine
the foundations, causing radioactive wastewater to pour unstoppably into
the Fukushima Pacific Ocean. The rods must
therefore go to another country.
American Bad Faith
Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by
in 1970, Washington's negotiators stipulated
that used nuclear fuel from Japanese reactors must by law be shipped to the
for storage or reprocessing to prevent the development of an atomic bomb. United States Washington has been unable to fulfill its treaty
obligations to Tokyo due to the public
outcry against the proposed Yucca
Mountain storage facility near . Las Vegas
A panel convened by the Obama administration has just recommended the set up of a network of storage sites across the
a controversy certain to revive the anti-nuclear sentiments during the upcoming
election campaign. The American nuclear industry has its own stockpile of more
than 60,000 tons of spent fuel - not counting waste from reactors used for
military and research purposes - leaving no space for United States Fukushima's
rods inside the
disposal site, if indeed it is ever opened. Nevada
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has allocated 1 trillion yen ($12 billion) in funds for nuclear waste disposal. Areva, the French nuclear monopoly, has teamed up with Tepco to find an overseas storage site. So far, the Tepco-Areva team have quietly contacted three Asian countries -
Kazakhstan, China and -- to set up a center for
"reprocessing", a euphemism for nuclear dump site. Mongolia
Among the threesome,
China was the top choice for the Japanese
nuclear establishment, which has confidence in 's ability to safeguard nuclear
secrets from its citizenry and even from the top leaders. Beijing Japan's space agency, which keeps 24-hour
satellite observation over every nuclear-related facility in ,
possesses the entire record of radiation leaks there. Since China withholds
this sort of data from the public, the Japanese side felt it had the necessary
leverage in talks with Chinese nuclear officials. Beijing
Though the nuclear-sector bureaucrats were initially eager to receive bundles of yen, the proposal was blown away by the salt craze that swept over
. Within a couple of weeks of
the Fukushima meltdowns, millions of shoppers emptied supermarket shelves on
rumors that iodized salt could prevent radiation-caused thyroid cancer. The
Chinese public is rightfully fearful of health-related scandals after
discoveries of melamine in milk, growth hormones in pork, pesticides
in vegetables, antibiotics in fish and now radioactive fallout over farmland. China
A nuclear disposal deal would require trucks loaded with radioactive cargo to roll through a densely populated port, perhaps
Tianjin or , in the dead of
night. There is no way that secret shipments wouldn't be spotted by locals with
smart phones, triggering a mass exodus from every city, town and village along
the route to the dumping grounds in China's far west. Thus, the skittishness of
the ordinary Chinese citizen knocked out the easiest of nefarious plans. Ningbo
Principle of Industrial Recovery
A more logical choice for overseas storage is in the sparsely populated countries that supply uranium ore to Japan, particularly
As exporters of uranium, Canada Canberra and are ultimately responsible
for storage of the nuclear waste under the legal principle of industrial
The practice of industrial recovery is already well-established in the consumer electronics and household appliances sectors where manufacturers are required by an increasing number of countries to take back and recycle used television sets, computers and refrigerators.
Under the principle, uranium mining giants like Rio Tinto and CAMECO would be required to take back depleted uranium. The cost of waste storage would then be factored into the export price for uranium ore. The added cost is passed along to utility companies and ultimately the consumer through a higher electricity rate. If the market refuses to bear the higher price for uranium as compared with other fuels, then nuclear power will go the way of the steam engine.
Australian and Canadian politicians are bound to opportunistically oppose the return of depleted uranium since any shipments from
would be met by a massive turnout of "not-in-my-backyard" protesters.
The only way for Fukushima
to convince the local politicos to go along quietly is by threatening to
publish an online list of the bribe-takers in parliament who had earlier backed
uranium mining on behalf of the Japanese interests. Tokyo
The question then arise whether nuclear power, when long-term storage fees are included, is competitive with investment in renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydro and tidal resources. Renewable energy probably has the edge since they don't create waste. Natural gas remains the undisputed price beater wherever it is available in abundance. In a free market without hidden subsidies, nuclear is probably doomed.
In a lapse of professionalism, the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) has never seriously addressed nuclear-waste disposal as an industrywide issue. Based on the ration of spent rods to reactor fuel inside
facilities, there are close to 200,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste
at the 453 civilian nuclear-energy plants worldwide. Yet not a single permanent
storage site has ever been opened anywhere. U.S.
1 dilemma shows that the issues of
cost-efficiency and technological viability can no longer be deferred or
ignored. Ratings agencies report that Tepco's outstanding debt has soared
beyond $90 billion, meaning that it cannot cover future costs of storing spent
rods from its Kashiwazaki and Fukushima 2 nuclear plants. The Japanese
government's debt has soared to 200 percent of GDP. Neither entity can afford
the rising cost of nuclear power. Fukushima
The inability of Tepco or the government to pay for nuclear waste disposal puts the financial liability squarely on its partner companies and suppliers, including GE, Toshiba, Hitachi, Kajima Construction and especially the sources of the uranium, CAMECO and Rio Tinto and the governments of Canada and Australia. A fundamental rule of both capitalism and civil law is that somebody has to pay.
Australia and Canada
aren't in any hurry to take back the radioactive leftovers, that leaves Japan and treaty-partner United States with only one option for quick
disposal- . Mongolia
get the entirety of the budget, since the nuclear cargo would have to transit
through the Russian Far East. Unlike the health-conscious Chinese, the
population of Nakhodka or Mongolia are
used to playing fast-and-loose with radioactive materials and vodka. Vladivostok
Even if the mafia that runs the Russian transport industry were to demand a disproportionate cut,
3 million inhabitants would be overjoyed at gaining about $2,000 each, more
than the average annual income, that is if the money is divided evenly after
the costs of building the dump. Mongolia
Realistically, the Mongolian people are unlikely to receive a penny, since the money will go into a trust fund for maintenance costs. That's because $12 billion spread over the half-life of uranium - 700 million years - is equivalent to $17 in annual rent. That doesn't even cover kibble bits for the watchdog on duty, much less the cooling system. Not that anyone will be counting since by the time uranium decays to a safe level, fossils will be the sole remnant of human life on Earth.
Illusory, shortsighted greed will surely triumph in
and that leaves a question of moral accountability for the rest of us. Will the
world community feel remorse for dumping its nuclear mess onto an ancient
culture that invented boiled mutton, fermented mare's milk and Genghis
Khan? For guilt-ridden diplomats from Mongolia Tokyo and Washington wheedling the dirty deal in , here's the rebuttal: Did the
national hero, the Great Khan, ever shed any tears or feel pangs of guilt?
There's no need for soul-searching. A solution is at hand. Ulan Bator
Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times Weekly, is a Hong Kong-based environmental writer and also Editor-at-large at the 4th
. Media, China