Science Questions

How much does nuclear waste storage cost?

Sun, 18th Jul 2010

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H Town Insomniac, via twitter asked:

How much does nuclear waste storage actually cost and with that factored in, is nuclear energy still cheap?


We put this question to Professor Swadesh Mahajan from the Institute for Fusion Studies at the University of Texas in Austin....

Swadesh: -   Yes.  The Yucca mountain site which was designed by the US folks  - of course not with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm - was expected to cost about $90 billion to $100 billion and it would’ve stored waste of about 40 years of operation of 50 to 100 nuclear reactors.  So if you really try to just divide it to all over, I think it adds just a few cents to the cost of electricity.

Chris: -   And, of course, you've got to factor in the environmental impact which is that we’re not releasing CO2 as Ian Farnan said.  We’re sparing, for every ton of uranium, the equivalent in CO2 terms, of a million tons of coal.

Swadesh: -   Right.  The very important thing of course is that it’s very difficult for us to be able to engineer too many such repositories with 10,000 to 200,000 years of lifetime.  So I think we should have a minimum number of them and if nuclear energy is going to have a renaissance, we really must destroy this before we store it.  Destroy as much as we can, if we reduce it to 10% or to 1%, the better it gets.  We are not going to be able to get a hundred Yucca mountains if the nuclear energy were to take off for instance, which is what will be needed if we try to store untreated waste.  That’s a political as well as a physical impossibility.  So we must destroy this.


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Isn't Yucca mountain leaky already? Like any "permanent" nuclear waste storage site I've ever heard of? How people can possibly think that they will be able to build something that will last 200,000 years without getting so much as a crack is utterly mysterious to me. It's the same people who believe that it's even easier than going all renewable. The thing is that several studies show that 100% renewables is possible with today's technology while I highly doubt that such independent studies exist for nuclear waste storage.

For Germany for example it would cost every German 20 € every month for 40 years to do it now. But that really means starting today. I already get 100% green electricity that costs about 5% more than what I paid before and a fixed amount of that money is invested in new facilities. If that's not money well spent then what is? mudd1, Sat, 24th Jul 2010

Yep Mudd1, totally correct. We have no safe repositories for nuclear waste, anywhere. And that fact is there, no matter that we've had researched about it for over half a century. It's not an environmental solution to the energy crisis we have, and will meet in an even grander scale soon.

And the Timescales involved is not human either. It's like expecting us to be unchanging through millenniums. What country have been so throughout human history, what buildings do we have still standing 1000 y old? And do we remember why they built them and whom it was?? We only find those things out through archaeological excavations don't we :)

So what are the odds for us being able to take care of anything a 1000 years?
Also, how will those generations look at us if we haven't solved this problem?

Lastly, radioactivity continues to seep down into the ground water and spreads, contaminating wide areas, as seen in Chernobyl and in those German underground facilities where they have tried to store it. There is a large Area in Russia where they dumped radioactive wastes that is humanly uninhabitable today, even though humans still live there, watching their kids being death born and crippled. A long time the doctors there wasn't allowed to call it a radiation effect but had to 'invent' other explanations for it. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try to find a better way to use nuclear power, without those wastes, but to continue to build it on the premises we've done it the last fifty years is sheer shortsighted stupidity.

yor_on, Sun, 25th Jul 2010

I'd like to see some of those studies. I was under the impression that renewables cannot even come close to meeting the demand. Geezer, Sun, 25th Jul 2010

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