Nuclear Reactors 227 - India Has High Hopes For Nuclear Power

    I have posted essays about India's nuclear programs before. Indian has major issues with their supply of electricity with frequent lost of power in major cities and over three hundred million people having no access at all to electricity. The Indian government has been pushing hard to increase nuclear power in India. Prime Minister Modi is pressing the Department of Atomic Energy to triple India's nuclear power output by 2025 from about six gigawatts to around eighteen gigawatts.

        The main problem that India faces is the fact the it has very stringent liability laws with respect to industrial accidents including the possibility of suing manufacturers of equipment involved in serious accidents. This has prevented the U.S. and other major nuclear players from being interested in building nuclear reactors in and transferring nuclear technology and materials to India. There is also a concern among other nuclear nations that India may divert imported nuclear technology and fuel intended for civilian use to their military nuclear program because India has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Recently there have been negotiations within India and with potential international nuclear suppliers to deal with these two serious issues.

        Last week, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) signed a contact with the French firm, Areva. Areva will be helping India deal with problems at the Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra which is being held up because of costs and liability issues. Areva has also signed a contract with Larse & Tuobro which is an Indian engineering company. There is a plan to have some of the equipment for the Jaitapur project manufactured locally in India.

        Last week, Canada announced plans to sell about two hundred and ninety million dollars worth of uranium to India. This will amount to about seven million pounds of uranium over five years. After India used Canadian nuclear technology to build a nuclear bomb, Canada had banned uranium exports to India. Australia had also refused to sell uranium to India but that may be changing as the two countries negotiate.

        Because India has little indigenous uranium, it has been exploring the use of thorium as a nuclear fuel. India has abundant reserves of thorium. Supporters of thorium say that it will be more easily controlled and safer. Opponents point out that thorium reactors generate waste that is even more radioactive than the waste from a uranium or MOX reactor and that such reactors could still have major accidents.

        It is estimated that building a nuclear power plant in India will be about thirty percent cheaper than building one in the United States. The big question is whether that lower cost will be low enough for nuclear power to be competitive in the Indian energy market. Coal is the most common source of electricity in India but it produces a lot of carbon dioxide. India has been under increasing pressure from the international community to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Supporters of the nuclear push in India point out that the adoption of nuclear power on a large scale in India would certainly reduce their carbon footprint.

       However attractive nuclear power might seem to India at the moment, I think that they would be better served by conservation and distributed sustainable alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro. India has a lot of sun, wind and water.

India's nuclear facilities:

Geiger Readings for April 20, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 116 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 111  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 126 nanosieverts per hour
Carrot from Central Market = 86  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 143 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 139 nanosieverts per hour

Geiger Readings for April 19, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 100 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 100  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 86 nanosieverts per hour
Snow pea from Central Market = 101  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 122 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 116 nanosieverts per hour

Geiger Readings for April 18, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 101 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 77  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 66 nanosieverts per hour
Brussel sprout from QFC = 89  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 94 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 77 nanosieverts per hour

Radioactive Waste 130 - Deep Borehole Disposal Will Be Tested At Hanford - Part 2

(This is Part Two of a two part article. Please read Part One before reading Part Two.)

         Deep borehole disposal (DBD) is superior to mined geological repositories (MGR) which are mined about sixteen hundred feet underground.

1) MGRs can cost billions of dollars to prepare before they can take any waste. Deep boreholes will cost in the tens of millions of dollars each and can be drilled one at a time as needed.

2) DBD requires granite formations which are found under much of the continental United States. There are far fewer sites that are suitable for MGRs.

3) It would take about five years to drill a deep borehole, fill it with waste and seal it. In contrast, a prospective MGR in the U.K. will begin construction in 2040 and not take any waste until 2075. A final site for such a repository has not yet been selected. In the U.S., it is estimated that the soonest a MGR could be ready to accept any waste would be 2050.

4) DBD puts the nuclear waste much deeper than MGRs and is much safer. With many potential sites available in the U.S., it should be easier to find a site that will meet with public approval than trying to site a MGR.

5) DBD does not require a big site and has much less environmental impact than MGRs. The diameter of the borehole for DBD would be about two feet. Multiple holes could be drilled at the same site if they are spaced about a hundred feet apart. Once the waste has been placed in the borehole and the hole filled and covered, all infrastructure can be removed. With proper landscaping, the disposal location could be invisible.

6) Seismic activity could possibly crack the containers of waste, fracture the rock around the borehole and damage the deepest barriers. However, such seismic activity would not destroy the isolation of the waste or make it possible for any radioactive materials to make their way to the surface or into the ground water above the waste.

       While a great deal of research on DBD has been done in the U.K. at the University of Sheffield and other institutions, it will be tested first in the U.S. A trial hole about half a yard in diameter will be drilled. Tests will be conducted to guarantee that waste packages can be inserted into the borehole and retrieved, if necessary. These tests will be conducted in 2016. If the tests are successful, real Hanford waste capsules will be inserted into boreholes that are about eight inches in diameter for permanent disposal.

       Compared to all the other existing and proposed methods for disposing of high-level radioactive waste, DBD appears to be the safest and cheapest alternative. In many cases, deep bore holes could be drilled on site at existing nuclear power plants. Only a few holes should be necessary at each site to dispose of the spent nuclear fuel filling up cooling pools and dry casks. The U.S. should immediately pursue such DBD. Nuclear waste disposal via DBD will be much faster, cheaper, safer and easier than proposed MGRs.

Geiger Readings for April 17, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 103 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 99  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 95 nanosieverts per hour
Brussel sprout from QFC = 99  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 113 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 99 nanosieverts per hour

Radioactive Waste 129 - Deep Borehole Disposal Will Be Tested At Hanford - Part 1

 (Part One of a two part article.)  

           I have posted many essays about the disposal of radioactive materials. In the early days of the nuclear age when the thrust was to develop nuclear weapons, nuclear waste from production was often poured or dumped in trenches and holes. Some nuclear waste was just dumped in the ocean. As time went by, better methods of storing and disposing of nuclear waste were suggested and some were tested. Spent nuclear fuel began to accumulate at nuclear power plants. It was decided that the best thing to do with nuclear waste would be to bury it deep in the ground in permanent mined geological repositories. (MGR) Germany used an old salt mine for a repository but it had to be abandoned because of ground water penetration.

        A decade and millions of dollars were spent by the U.S. government on what was going to be a permanent spent nuclear fuel repository in an old salt mine under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The project was cancelled in 2009 because of problems with ground water. An underground repository in New Mexico that was specifically intended for waste from the production of nuclear weapons was recently closed because of an explosion that released radioactive particles into the environment. It will take years and millions of dollars to reopen the repository.

        In the U.S., the spent fuel pools are filling up at nuclear power reactors and temporary dry cask storage seems to be the only short term solution although there are problems with cask design. One of the proposals that I have covered was the idea of drilling sixteen thousand foot deep holes and dumping the waste in. This option which is referred to as "deep borehole disposal " (DBD) has not been done but may be the best of many alternatives.

        Researchers from the University of Sheffield  in Britain will present their latest findings with regard to the borehole option at the American Nuclear Society meeting next week in Charleston, South Carolina. Professor Fergus Gibb from the University of Sheffield has said, "DBD is particularly suitable for high level nuclear waste, such as spent fuel, where high levels of radioactivity and heat make other alternatives very difficult. Much of the drilling expertise and equipment to create the boreholes already exists in the oil and gas and geothermal industries. A demonstration borehole -- such as is planned in the US -- is what is now needed to move this technology forward." The Sheffield team has been researching the nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. They estimate that forty percent of the most radioactive waste at Hanford could be disposed of in a single borehole.

       The biggest concern with the DBD approach is the fear that the radioactive materials might escape from the borehole. A way of covering the holes securely must be developed and thoroughly tested. Professor Gibb has suggested that a layer of granite could be melted above the waste. It would solidify and behave the same way as natural rock to seal the borehole. Professor Gibb and his team are also working on processes for surrounding the waste with special cement that can withstand the temperatures and pressures found in deep boreholes.

(Please read Part Two of this article next.)

Geiger Readings for April 16, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 73 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 103  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 126 nanosieverts per hour
Brussel sprout from QFC = 74  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 122 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 103 nanosieverts per hour

Radioactive Waste 128 - Energy Solutions Wants to Bury 350,000 Tons of Depleted Uranium in Utah - Part 2

(This is the second section of a two-part article - Please read Part 1 before reading this post.)

           EnergySolutions (ES) is a company that focuses on nuclear waste recycling, nuclear waste disposal, and environmental remediation. ES operates the Clive landfill 80 miles west of Salt Lake City in Utah.

            ES has been asking the state of Utah for permission to bury three hundred and seventy five thousand tons (or about one half) of the U.S. stockpile of depleted uranium in the Clive landfill. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality listed eight conditions that they say ES must satisfy before they are allowed to ship hundreds of thousands of drums of nuclear waste to Utah for burial. They also listed seven questions that ES must answer before its proposal will be accepted.

(Please see Part 1 for a list of the eight issues.)

           In addition to the eight issues, there are is set of seven questions that the DEQ requires ES to answer including:

"1. Agreement with Department of Energy (DOE) Prior to disposal of DU waste, EnergySolutions shall provide a written agreement letter between DOE and EnergySolutions indicating that DOE will accept title to the Federal Cell after closure.

2. Disposal below grade DU waste must be disposed of below the original-grade level of the proposed Federal Cell.

3. Depleted uranium as Class A waste EnergySolutions shall provide documentation that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does not plan to reclassify DU.

4. Modeling of the remainder of waste. EnergySolutions shall submit for DEQ approval a revised performance assessment that addresses the total quantities of concentrated DU and other wastes before any radioactive wastes other than the DU waste are emplaced in the proposed Federal Cell.

5. Waste acceptance criteria Prior to any land disposal of significant quantities of concentrated DU, the EnergySolutions shall submit a written Waste Acceptance Criteria plan designed to ensure that all DU waste received by EnergySolutions conforms with all physical, chemical, and radiologic properties assumed in the DU PA modeling report.

6. Prohibition of recycled uranium in DU waste ES is prohibited from land disposal of any quantity of DU that was produced at DOE facilities from uranium-bearing materials containing recycled uranium.

7. Hydrological and hydrogeological properties of lower confined aquifer EnergySolutions will develop and implement a program to provide more detailed site characterization and hydrogeological evaluation of aquifers in the area, particularly the deeper confined aquifer."

Critics of the plan to bury depleted uranium at Clive landfill say that they do not believe that ES will be able to satisfy the requirements of the DEQ. Even if the DEQ requirements are satisfied, there are still potentials problems. A waste facility in Germany had to be permanently closed because of unanticipated problems with ground water moving though the old salt mine. Part of the reason that the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository project was abandoned was because the initial assumptions about ground water movement in the area proved to seriously underestimate the amount and speed of ground water in the area. Even with the best planning and modeling possible, the only way to be sure if the plan will work as projected would be to create a test dump and monitor it for decades. This is unlikely to happen.