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Program to Use Russian Nukes for US Electricity Comes to an End

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the how-about-u.s.-nukes-now dept.

Power 148

gbrumfiel writes "For the past two decades, about 10 percent of all the electricity consumed in the United States has come from Russian nuclear warheads. Under a program called Megatons to Megawatts, Russian highly-enriched uranium was pulled from old bombs and made into fuel for nuclear reactors. NPR News reports that the program concludes today when the last shipment arrives at a U.S. storage facility. In all nearly 500 tons of uranium was recycled, enough for roughly 20,000 warheads."

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148 comments

And why ... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662089)

And why do we feel the US is more trusted with this than anybody else?

Oh, right, you guys continue to believe you are the leaders of the free world, and the champions of freedom and liberty.

Apparently the irony is lost on Americans.

Re:And why ... (0, Troll)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 4 months ago | (#45662125)

The US is a leader because we don't just talk big on the internet and rave into video cameras.

Re:And why ... (0, Troll)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#45662185)

The US is a leader because we don't just talk big on the internet and rave into video cameras.

Yes, apparently you wiretap the internet and install the video cameras.

Because, you know, that's clearly being the champions of freedom and liberty -- or more accurately, your own at the expense of everyone else's.

Re:And why ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662257)

We didn't install the cameras we just accessed the ones you already had set up.

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45663973)

Perhaps someone can please post another TSA article?

Re:And why ... (5, Insightful)

Peristaltic (650487) | about 4 months ago | (#45662537)

Yes, apparently you wiretap the internet and install the video cameras.

Who, specifically, are the two of you referring to when you say "you" and "we"? All Americans? Really?

Yes sir, no Americans "just talk big" on the internet as they rave into video cameras, and all Americans support "wiretapping the internet" as we giggle our asses off installing the video cameras... and all Irish are drunks, all Brits have bad teeth and all Muslims are terrorists.

You really put your names on this shit? Both of your posts are sense-free trolls. Give it a rest.

Re:And why ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#45662677)

Not saying all Americans support this, but it's done in your name by your government. Often against the laws of the country where it happens (which apparently are deemed irrelevant by your laws).

So, like it or not, these are things America is currently doing right now.

Sadly, my country is one of the Five Eyes, and I need to accept that Canada is doing this as well. I don't like it either, but that doesn't change that it's happening in my name or that I wish it wasn't.

But when someone says "ZOMG, teh Canajuns are doing teh spying (eh)" -- the best we can say is "yeah, we don't like it either".

Unfortunately, when our politicians act like douchebags, it reflects on us all. And, sadly, I suspect in many countries where this is occurring those of us who disagree with it are vastly outnumbered by the ones who think that it's OK.

But if you think that still doesn't create some negative backlash against a country in general, you're fooling yourself. If most of your country believes this is OK and what you should be doing, well, then on balance, the whole country bears the blame for it.

Re:And why ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662879)

So you admit that your government is doing exactly the same thing and even in exactly the same program as the American government. Funny, then, that you say that Americans are all about spying on everybody, however when it comes to Canada, all you have to say is "yeah, we don't like it either."

Unless you've been living under a rock, we (American citizens) aren't too happy about the thing as a whole. It doesn't mater which country it is that's behind it; whether our own or another.

Re:And why ... (0)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#45663117)

Unless you've been living under a rock, we (American citizens) aren't too happy about the thing as a whole. It doesn't mater which country it is that's behind it; whether our own or another.

I'm aware of that. But we're mostly arguing silly semantics of if we can say "the Americans are spying on everybody", or if we can say "the Americans (despite the objections of some Americans) are spying on everybody".

Functionally, there's no damned difference. You yell at your government, I'll yell at mine. You're free to complain about my government, and I'll continue to complain about yours.

Re:And why ... (5, Insightful)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 4 months ago | (#45663295)

the best we can say is "yeah, we don't like it either".

Unfortunately, when our politicians act like douchebags, it reflects on us all. And, sadly, I suspect in many countries where this is occurring those of us who disagree with it are vastly outnumbered by the ones who think that it's OK..

I don't think so. I have a feeling that those who don't like it do out number those who find such behavior appalling. The problem is, is that it doesn't seem there is any way to fix it within the framework any longer. The politicians/lawyers have warped and twisted the system to the point that it no longer serves "we the people" but the politicians themselves. I'm sure it probably always did to a point, but it's almost palpable now. Sadly we don't even have a good option for who to vote for any longer. Our last two presidents were voted into office on good wishes and little else. Bush was going to be reach across the aisle and work with both parties and focus on internal matters and avoid "nation building" and deficit reduction... Our current president was going to close Gitmo, cure global warming and give us unicorns and rainbows. My father has gotten to the point that he simply votes against whomever the incumbent is. If the incumbent is running unchallenged, he uses the write in.

I hope I'm wrong, but I fear we have crossed the line where things can be fixed in a peaceable manner. I don't think we've come to the point where it will take an all out revolt to fix things. But I do fear there may come a time where riots will start occurring. Or even worse, the American people have become so complacent and distracted, that all of the diversions will keep us placated indefinitely. Then we are truly lost.

Re:And why ... (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#45663623)

I hope I'm wrong, but I fear we have crossed the line where things can be fixed in a peaceable manner.

I believe the time has long since passed where nothing except peaceful means and working within the system will be effective in causing change in some countries.

Between the fact that they can monitor everything you do, use terrorism laws to detain you without trial, and have a huge imbalance in terms of force available to them -- the days a revolt being anything other than a suicide pact are long gone.

Any attempts at anything more drastic will only allow them to say "see, terrorists". Unfortunately, they seem quite unwilling to listen to protests and reasoned debate.

Ideally, opinion and policy swing back the other way and things get better. I, like you, fear they won't -- but hopefully countries start to realize you don't need to get as far down the path as needing an armed revolt to adhere to what were your starting principles.

One would like to hope that civil disobedience and less violent means are still viable. And maybe that's truly naive, but the alternative is terrifying: if Western democracies have to resort to armed insurrection, it's all pretty much downhill from there. Because every piss-pot dictator will say "but see, you do the same thing", and the world as we know it will have changed for the worse.

And, sadly, for a lot of people as long as their day to day lives are mostly the same, they're never going to understand why this is happening and not going to side with it. Ideally, you exhaust all other options before resorting to anything more drastic.

One would like to hope there's still some shreds of enlightenment and finding a better way available to us.

Re:And why ... (2)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#45663859)

Yes, of course, like the USA is the only country with NSA/CIA like organizations right?

Re:And why ... (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about 4 months ago | (#45662807)

The US is a leader because we don't just talk big on the internet and rave into video cameras.

Yes, once in a while we actually do something right. Buying the Uranium, which largely gave the substance a safe direction to travel, and a cash reward for compliance worked out well.

Although, in 1995 I was in Prague when the news carried a story about a car being discovered with 6 pounds of enriched Uranium scooting around town. I was pretty alarmed because the people were evidently looking for a buyer.

Re:And why ... (2)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 4 months ago | (#45663537)

Although, in 1995 I was in Prague when the news carried a story about a car being discovered with 6 pounds of enriched Uranium scooting around town. I was pretty alarmed because the people were evidently looking for a buyer.

Well, you know, the life of a repo man is always intense.

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662157)

Wow, careful with all that straw, man, you're liable to start a fire! There's uranium around, you don't want to see what happens when it overheats.

Re:And why ... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662165)

You should leave the Anti-Americanism to the faculty of American universities.

They're much better at it.

Re: And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662605)

And we are thankful that the faculty at American universities are free to express "anti-American" sentiments -- aren't we?

Re:And why ... (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 4 months ago | (#45662209)

And why do we feel the US is more trusted with this than anybody else?

Because if we wanted to nuke the hell outta someone, we wouldn't need Russian uranium to do it.

Apparently the irony is lost on Americans.

I think you're confusing irony with tragedy.

Re:And why ... (5, Informative)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 4 months ago | (#45662453)

Specially since this is U-235 (the primary nuclear fuel currently in use on civilian nuclear power stations).
Using U-235 for nuclear weapons is only common in first generation nuclear programs. You see, enriching uranium is a PITA (separating isotopes), while separating plutonium from anything else is soooo much easier (chemical separation).
The trick is having a reactor that takes thatplentiful U-238 and hit it with a neutron to make Pu-239 (that nasty plutonium used in bombs). Plutonium isn't naturally occurring.
If there are still US nuclear weapons that use U-235, those must be the oldest in the inventory.
So, any association from that Russian nuclear fuel with nuclear bombs is only made by those without any nuclear physics knowledge.

U-238 is 99,3% of natural uranium. It's the stuff that enrichment removes from the base material (producing depleted uranium).
A holy grail of peaceful nuclear is breeding Pu-239 from U-238 on the fly inside the reactor and the fission it, but having this happen mixed with all kinds of nasty beta emitters that make using that Pu-239 for nuclear weapons another PITA. Beta radiation is the stuff that really kills (used to kill cancer cells in radiotheraphy), but inside the reactor it's not an issue.

Not to mention that everybody that has significant stockpiles of Pu-239 want to destroy most of it ! Most nuclear reactors can't deal with nuclear fuel with lots of plutonium.

Re:And why ... (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 months ago | (#45662671)

U-238 and hit it with a neutron to make Pu-239

IANANuclear Engineer, but isn't it a proton that's needed for that?

</pedantic>

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662823)

U238 + Neutron -> U239 -electron (beta decay) -> P239

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662843)

U-238 captures a neutron, becoming U-239. This decays via beta decay, turns a neutron into a proton, to Neptunium Np-239, which decays again via beta decay to form the more stable Pu-239.
For more information see the wiki
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium

Re:And why ... (2)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 4 months ago | (#45662893)

Google is your friend, but for the lazy:

Right, the neutron capture makes U-239, then it undergoes two beta decays that add one proton to the nucleus:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-238 [wikipedia.org]

I'm also not a physicist, but this explanation must the right, because it's the same in multiple sources (Wikipedia, nuclear lectures from multiple sources).

For explanation of why the double beta decay adds a proton to the nucleus, see here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_decay [wikipedia.org]

Warning! Mod parent down! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45663173)

Parent cites only WIKIPEDIA. Couldn't he bother citing something authoritative, something that isn't regularly contributed to by psych ward patients who have just enough cognitive skills to sometimes contribute?

Moderators! *ALERT!* (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45663391)

Parent cites only WIKIPEDIA. Couldn't he bother citing something authoritative, something that isn't regularly contributed to by psych ward patients who have just enough cognitive skills to sometimes contribute?

Help, moderators, help! I beckon thee to read this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45664193)

Parent cites only WIKIPEDIA. Couldn't he bother citing something authoritative, something that isn't regularly contributed to by psych ward patients who have just enough cognitive skills to sometimes contribute?

Re:And why ... (2)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 4 months ago | (#45662901)

U-238 and hit it with a neutron to make Pu-239

IANANuclear Engineer, but isn't it a proton that's needed for that?

</pedantic>

After U-238 absorbs a neutron it becomes U-239, which decays (half life = 23 m) to Np-239, which decays (half life = 2 d) again to Pu-239.

Re:And why ... (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 4 months ago | (#45662929)

Oops forgot to clarify, the decays are beta decay, where a neutron in the nucleus turns into a proton and ejects an electron and antineutrino.

Re:And why ... (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 4 months ago | (#45663433)

Proton: positively charged ....
Neutron: neutral, hence the name ...
I leave the rest to your imagination.
(* facepalm *)

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45663305)

HEU is often used in second stages in most modern warheads. It's just dangerous to use as a pit.

Re:And why ... (3, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 4 months ago | (#45662233)

It's not a matter of being more trusted. It's a matter of the US going to the trouble to negotiate a deal with Russia to dispose of the unneeded fissionable material. France, UK, Japan, etc. could have done it instead ... if they had tried.

Re:And why ... (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 4 months ago | (#45664187)

The US has double the installed power of nuclear reactors compared to France or Japan, and more than 5x the capacity of the UK.

The UK and France already have reprocessing plants to convert weapons-grade plutonium into reactor fuel, which isn't yet done in the US, so I'm guessing they have even less need for uranium.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOX_fuel#Current_applications [wikipedia.org]

Re:And why ... (2)

Deadstick (535032) | about 4 months ago | (#45662237)

Would you prefer the Russians sold their warheads on E-bay?

Re:And why ... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#45662345)

Direct heating from the warheads would have been more efficient that making electricity in power plants and then passing it through heaters. Even more so if they didn't leave the thermonuclear component out.

Re:And why ... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 4 months ago | (#45662789)

Naw. I fully expected them to show up at the nearest fireworks stand. Loads of fun that's sure to blow you away.

Re:And why ... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 months ago | (#45662301)

It was actually a trick. Now we have to pay to be rid of the spent fuel. Pretty smart, the Russians.

Re:And why ... (2)

rlwhite (219604) | about 4 months ago | (#45662349)

You mean, we pay to ship it to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina because we never could agree on a permanent storage solution at Yucca Mountain. We won't be completely rid of it for many, many years.

Re:And why ... (5, Insightful)

istartedi (132515) | about 4 months ago | (#45662311)

Really? REALLY??? Do you have any idea what was happening in Russia after the USSR fell apart? They were in some serious economic trouble. Securing nuclear assets was of vital importance not just to us, but to them and the entire world. If anything we didn't do enough. I heard there were RTGs left to rust in Siberia. Some of their naval nukes were also mothballed under questionable circumstances.

I'm the first to admit that the USA's actions aren't always for the best; but not in this case.

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662463)

your sig is intensive. please calm it down a bit

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662937)

"I gave the pencil to him"

"I gave the pencil to he"

"I gave the book to she"

"I gave the book to her"

If you can pick out the correct ones above, why are you so dense that you can't pick between "who" and "whom"? I won't comment on "intensive", but "begs the question"? Really?

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45663675)

whom the fuck ate my last twinkie

Re:And why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662759)

Apparently the irony is lost on Americans.

How exactly is the mindset of "the only people we trust with nukes is ourselves" ironic? Moronic perhaps, but hardly ironic.

Re:And why ... (3, Insightful)

Millennium (2451) | about 4 months ago | (#45662997)

Trust has very little to do with it. The people who have these weapons have them. The best that can be hoped for is a process of disarmament that does not cause too much damage if trust is broken, and one which prevents other parties from gaining the weapons and thus becoming risk factors in and of themselves.

That said, this particular program was an ingenious way of proving that these weapons were destroyed. It put the most critical parts -what actually makes these things nuclear weapons- through a relatively open, transparent, and auditable process that rendered them, if not precisely inert, then at least unsuitable for use in weapons. Trades of this sort should be more common among countries decreasing their stockpiles.

Re:And why ... (1)

Strudelkugel (594414) | about 4 months ago | (#45663451)

Trust has very little to do with it. The people who have these weapons have them. The best that can be hoped for is a process of disarmament that does not cause too much damage if trust is broken, and one which prevents other parties from gaining the weapons and thus becoming risk factors in and of themselves.

A general perspective from Sen. Sam Nunn. [nti.org] The world requires more progress. I think people have become too complacent about these weapons.

Re:And why ... (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#45663161)

And why do we feel the US is more trusted with this than anybody else?

Because we already have enough warheads to destroy the entire planet 100x over? How is a bit more Uranium going to help us? So we can destroy it 101x over?

Re:And why ... (3, Interesting)

Zordak (123132) | about 4 months ago | (#45663897)

And why do we feel the US is more trusted with this than anybody else?

Because we already have enough warheads to destroy the entire planet 100x over? How is a bit more Uranium going to help us? So we can destroy it 101x over?

No, we really don't. Nuclear stockpiles are a fraction of 1% of their cold war peaks (I calculated it once, but don't remember the exact number). I believe our silo-based missiles in the U.S. are down to 150 single-warhead Minuteman IIIs, at around 300 kT each. That's about 450 MT, which is still a lot of destructive power, but the largest single device ever detonated was 50 MT all by itself, and was supposedly capable of being boosted to 100 MT.

And the OP entirely missed the point: This was not "giving" new nukes to the U.S. This was taking old nukes out of circulation and using them for energy. Using your analogy, this is going from 100x to 99x or lower, not the other way around.

Primary goal was disposal, not energy (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 months ago | (#45662137)

Our proven uranium reserves would last us over 200 years at current consumption; Well beyond the life expectancy of any of our reactors. The only reason for this program was to provide a failing country with a cheap way of disposing of highly hazardous materials without losing face. It is the proverbial "turning a negative into a positive". It will have zero effect on our energy costs or programs.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662279)

Our proven uranium reserves would last us over 200 years at current consumption; Well beyond the life expectancy of any of our reactors. The only reason for this program was to provide a failing country with a cheap way of disposing of highly hazardous materials without losing face. It is the proverbial "turning a negative into a positive". It will have zero effect on our energy costs or programs.

Zero effect, eh?

An oil sheik farts in the wrong direction and gas prices go up by 10 cents a gallon, creating hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue instantly.

What in the FUCK makes you think the powers-that-be won't take this non-story and turn it into the next US energy crisis to justify a 20% increase in costs?

Sorry for being so harsh, but your last statement there pegged my bullshit meter.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (3, Interesting)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 4 months ago | (#45662343)

Our proven uranium reserves would last us over 200 years at current consumption; Well beyond the life expectancy of any of our reactors. The only reason for this program was to provide a failing country with a cheap way of disposing of highly hazardous materials without losing face. It is the proverbial "turning a negative into a positive". It will have zero effect on our energy costs or programs.

Zero effect, eh?

An oil sheik farts in the wrong direction and gas prices go up by 10 cents a gallon, creating hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue instantly.

What in the FUCK makes you think the powers-that-be won't take this non-story and turn it into the next US energy crisis to justify a 20% increase in costs?

Sorry for being so harsh, but your last statement there pegged my bullshit meter.

The small increase in nuclear fuel price due to the ending of this program is insignificant. Fuel price is only a small cost of nuclear power, and enrichment cost only a fraction of that. The real problem for nuclear power is the bottoming out of energy prices due to the huge oversupply of natural gas from fracking. The latter being responsible for the closing of two power plants this year.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (1)

ewieling (90662) | about 4 months ago | (#45662635)

bottoming out of energy prices due to the huge oversupply of natural gas from fracking.

According to this site the average price/kwh has been steadily increasing, doesn't look like it accounts for inflation though. http://data.bls.gov/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?series_id=APU000072610&data_tool=XGtable [bls.gov]

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 months ago | (#45662757)

According to this site the average price/kwh has been steadily increasing, doesn't look like it accounts for inflation though.

Yeah, but the OP was right: This isn't a fuel problem. In truth, it's a NIMBY problem. Nobody wants a power plant built near them, so no new plants are being built. The net result is demand is rising, but supply isn't. That's why the price is going up; It's not because the cost of the inputs have changed. It doesn't matter whether the plants are natural gas, nuclear, coal, solar, or wind... if you can't build one to begin with.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 4 months ago | (#45662949)

The issue is not the average energy price across the country. The problem is local, where natural gas is produced in such abundance but cannot be stored or transported, they practically give it away, which nuclear (nor coal or any other generation method aside from hydro) can compete with.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662307)

EPA is announcing the availability of $4 million in grant funding to establish clean diesel projects aimed at reducing emissions from marine and inland water ports, many of which are in areas that face environmental justice challenges.

“Ports are essential to the nation’s economy and transportation infrastructure, but they also are home to some of the nation’s toughest environmental challenges,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “These grants will help port authorities to provide immediate emissions reductions that will benefit those who work and live in port-side communities.”

Most of the country’s busiest ports are located near large metropolitan areas and, as a result, people in nearby communities can be exposed to high levels of diesel emissions. Older diesel engines can emit large amounts of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulate matter (PM). These pollutants are linked to a range of serious health problems including asthma, lung and heart disease, other respiratory ailments, and even premature death. Clean diesel projects at ports, employing readily available technology, will make immediate emissions reductions and provide health benefits.

This grant competition is available under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Program and is the first competition to focus on solely reducing emissions at ports. DERA funds are used to clean up the legacy fleet of diesel engines that were produced before more recent environmental standards. This grant competition is intended to help solve some of the complex air quality issues in port communities.

Under this competition, EPA anticipates awarding between two and five assistance agreements to port authorities through the DERA program. Port authorities, governmental or public agencies that operate ports, are able to work directly with a variety of fleet owners to lower emissions from different types of equipment used in a port setting. Projects may include drayage trucks, marine engines, locomotives, and cargo handling equipment at marine or inland ports. Priority will be given to ports located in areas of poor air quality.

The objectives of the assistance offered under this program are to achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions in terms of tons of pollution reduced and reductions in diesel emissions exposure from fleets operating at ports. The program also seeks to build partnerships among port stakeholders to promote ongoing efforts to reduce emissions from port operations. Community groups, local governments, terminal operators, shipping carriers, and other business entities are encouraged to participate through partnerships with eligible port authorities. The closing date for receipt of proposals is February 13, 2014.

This funding opportunity is being offered in addition to EPA’s annual National Clean Diesel Campaign (NCDC) Funding Assistance Program. EPA intends to make future awards under the NCDC Funding Assistance Program, subject to the availability of funding.

For more information and to access the Request for Proposals and other documents, please visit http://www.epa.gov/otaq/ports/ports-dera-rfp.htm [epa.gov]

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (4, Informative)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 4 months ago | (#45662367)

Our proven uranium reserves would last us over 200 years at current consumption;

If we built fast reactors, we would have enough fuel, in the form of depleted uranium sitting around idle in barrels at enrichment plants, to supply the entire planet's energy for about 1000 years.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about 4 months ago | (#45662659)

The problem is fast reactors are un economical.
We need breeder thermal reactors, that's really though to do !
The only known design that might do that trick is Thorium / U-233 based.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 months ago | (#45662705)

If we built fast reactors, we would have enough fuel, in the form of depleted uranium sitting around idle in barrels at enrichment plants, to supply the entire planet's energy for about 1000 years.

Current reactor designs, given current geologically-proven reserves and what has already been refined and available in world markets, is about 200 years. The definition of proveable is that someone's already done it.

Fast reactors aren't economical right now. Maybe in two hundred years, assuming no new sources of uranium are discovered, we'll need to revisit it. It's economically absurd right now to suggest switching over. The 200 years estimate is based on today's technology, with today's known quantity, in today's economy. Yes, there are technologies, like fast reactors, that can re-use the spent fuel -- but until we're out of enriched uranium, there's simply no need to.

This is a question for our great great grand children to answer, not us. We should be more focused on getting off fossil fuels before our problems are less about an energy crisis than about having a habitable planet to live on. We'll have fuel for nuclear reactors for as long as the planet remains habitable. Habitability is in doubt because we're more concerned with short term gain than long-term stability. I don't want our children to have to wonder where their next meal will come from -- you can eat the trees, grass, birds, wild life, plants... but you can't eat money.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662371)

I like your post, but it propagates a myth due to severe omission. I'd like to correct it.

The big problem is, you're off by a factor of 100.

Our current fuel cycle is once-through. Thus, new fuel enters the reactor at 100% capacity, and when "spent" leaves the reactor at around 98% capacity.

"Known reserves" is also problematic, as it means those reserves that we know about and can recover for the same price as the market currently prices Uranium at. In a multi-billion dollar plant, a doubling of the cost of fuel does not translate into a dollar more per year worth of overall cost increase.

I will restate your phrase for accuracy - "Our proven reserves at current economic recovery rates, with appropriate fuel re-use, will last us over 10,000 years."
An addendum - "Allowing for a reasonable increase in the cost of fuel, and including known reserves of Thorium, we have nuclear fuel for fission reactors for 100,000 years. This assumes healthy annual growth in Humanity's overall energy consumption levels."

You are correct on your point that Russian warhead fuel is a two birds with one stone proposition - it is a cheap source of ready-to-use fuel, and it helps reduce the number of old warheads lying around in old soviet bunkers.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 months ago | (#45662573)

I like your post, but it propagates a myth due to severe omission. I'd like to correct it. The big problem is, you're off by a factor of 100.

False. "Uranium reserves available at up to $100 per pound of U3O8 represented approximately 23 years worth of demand, while uranium reserves at up to $50 per pound of U3O8 represented about 10 years worth of demand. Domestic U.S. uranium production, however, supplies only about 10 percent, on average, of U.S. requirements for nuclear fuel"
Source [eia.gov] . Domestic US production gives us 23 years of demand at 100% capacity. It is currently at 10% capacity. Conclusion: About 230 years.

A second estimate [world-nuclear.org] looking at global supply had this to say: "Thus the world's present measured resources of uranium (5.3 Mt) in the cost category around present spot prices and used only in conventional reactors, are enough to last for about 80 years. This represents a higher level of assured resources than is normal for most minerals. Further exploration and higher prices will certainly, on the basis of present geological knowledge, yield further resources as present ones are used up." It goes on to state "This is in fact suggested in the IAEA-NEA figures if those covering estimates of all conventional resources (U as main product or major by-product) are considered - another 7.6 million tonnes (beyond the 5.3 Mt known economic resources), which takes us to 190 years' supply at today's rate of consumption."

200 years is an accurate assessment given available data. Your assessment is based on non-existant technology and substantial change in current industry practices. Mine is based on today's technology, and no change.

Higher prices = 80 years (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#45662803)

Any argument that relies on higher prices for uranium needs to account for the falling cost of renewable energy which does not need fuel. Already wind power is helping to shut down existing reactors as uneconomical so demand for nuclear power is very unlikely to support higher uranium prices.

Re:Primary goal was disposal, not energy (2)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 4 months ago | (#45662587)

We paid good money for that Uranium and IIRC the Russians got a bunch of jobs mixing the highly refined into low grade at the 2% rate that reactors use. They didn't need it, and it was a security risk laying around. It was a win-win for both nations.

Modern weapons don't use Uranium anyway because you need so much more of it versus a plutonium trigger on an H-Bomb. IIRC the US phase uranium based weapons out decades ago and used up the excess uranium in exactly the same way we're using the Russian uranium. The Russians also didn't' ship it all out, they used a bunch of it for their own reactors as well.

But don't play this out as a loss for either nation, there was nothing for the Russian to lose face over because the material isn't part of their nuclear deterrent any more than uranium weapons are in the US. It was a marketable commodity as generator fuel and essentially worthless otherwise. The US was the only nation willing to buy it because of the protections other nations put on their internal refinement programs. The Russians didn't want to idle the refinement factories that supply Uranium to the world and the US had shut down their refinement capacity decades ago.

Using up the US and Russian weapons grade Uranium in US reactors delayed a restarting of US uranium production by decades. In fact after this last shipment is used up the US Uranium enrichment facilities will need to rebuild/restart to continue fueling the reactors.

boooya (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662143)

first

learn it, live it, love it

It sounds like London's logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662335)

And that's probably the real reason for the soviet block. Told this way it would seem that a whole country, an the biggest on Earth, with below-zero temperatures most of the year, needed missiles to keep warm.

Actually I remember reading long time ago (and curiously an African guy agreed) that in Africa the one eating is not the one with the food, but the one with the gun. I suppose you could now say that in Asia the one getting warm is not the one with the energy, but the one with the energy turned into a weapon.

Anyway Africa and Asia should not complain, it seems that for them Europe is just the Bin for what they don't want. London's logic...

I know a better use for them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662525)

Should have used them to glass the US.

Re:I know a better use for them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662751)

Google is already doing that.

They're doing it wrong (1)

Stele (9443) | about 4 months ago | (#45662581)

No wonder. A program to do this would never work. This is clearly a hardware problem.

Smart Move (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 4 months ago | (#45662603)

So you are recycling russian nukes to build your own nukes! Thats smart ;)

Re:Smart Move (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45663089)

You didn't pay much attention your high school science class, did you?

The short version is that no capable nation is still going to use uranium for a nuclear weapon. But, hey, lets totally ignore physics, and the fact that even the US has been downgrading it's nuclear weapon stock, for some completely nonsensical, uninformed ranting.

Low EROEI (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#45662679)

Early enrichment had a pretty low energy return on energy invested because of the large contribution of gaseous diffusion to the process. Enriching up to weapons grade and then diluting back down was also an extra energy draw. I can't count the number of complaints I've heard about solar energy payback time from nuke nuts on slashdot, yet all this time its been horrible to non-existent for US nukes. Mostly we've had imported soviet hydro and coal power with this program.

Is Recycling a Dirty Word? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45662931)

Uhh ... only if you deliberately refuse to admit that this is recycling.

Re:Low EROEI (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 months ago | (#45663187)

I can't count the number of complaints I've heard about solar energy payback time from nuke nuts on slashdot, yet all this time its been horrible to non-existent for US nukes.

You seem to be unaware that commercial fuel is only moderately enriched, and the enrichment process is done with (very energy efficient) centrifuges. (Actually, I'm being kind here, your handle, homepage, journal, and posting history all make your bias abundantly clear.)

Re:Low EROEI (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#45663323)

How much of that fuel was done with centrifuges? The Soviets had it sooner, but these are also their older weapons. Nope, this was a battery for conventional power, not an energy gain.

Re:Low EROEI (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 months ago | (#45663883)

The sound you heard was my point whooshing over your head. Again, unsurprising considering your bias, and what I must now conclude is deliberate ignorance on your part.

Had you bothered to read what I quoted, you'd note I was addressing your comment on US nukes.

Re:Low EROEI (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 4 months ago | (#45663393)

In what terms do you measure the energy efficiency of a centrifuge?
You clearly have no clue ...
Perhaps they use not much energy in relation to the energy provided by the fuel ...
But that is not called efficiency!

Re:Low EROEI (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 months ago | (#45663933)

No, the one lacking a clue is you.

You measure the efficiency of a centrifuge by measuring the energy consumed per SWU. This feeds into determining the EROEI that is the subject of grandparent's (clueless and disconnected from reality) complaint.

Re:Low EROEI (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 4 months ago | (#45664325)

pffft, thank you that you answered ho you measure the efficieny of a centrifuge, I will take your opinion into account for my thesis.
Best Regards

Re:Low EROEI (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 4 months ago | (#45663197)

What you are missing here is that what is happening is turning crap no one really wants into something that is useful which has a much higher EROEI than turning raw materials into that same end product. The same could be said about early efforts in refining aluminum (there is a reason that the Washington Monument is capped with an aluminum point) but I still toss all my aluminum cans into the recycling bin.

Re:Low EROEI (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 4 months ago | (#45663815)

Fine, but I didn't hear anyone suggesting that starting another cold war and then ending it, in order to harvest the leftover nuclear material, ought to be on the table in terms of possible future energy strategies.

This was a one time deal that only made sense given the outrageous history of the 20:th century.

Re:Low EROEI (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 4 months ago | (#45664363)

Personally, I don't care how efficient the process was or wasn't, I'm just pleased that the uranium delivered (and will continue to deliver for some time) its energy in a controlled fashion via the electrical grid, instead of all at once with a hydrogen jacket around it.

As far as I'm concerned, this was a "disarming the BOMB" program, any side effects that generated electricity, at any cost, are a bonus.

Swords and Plowshares (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | about 4 months ago | (#45662779)

...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares... That's what $14 Billion can buy.

Re:Swords and Plowshares (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 4 months ago | (#45663971)

...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares... That's what $14 Billion can buy.

Note that the estimated cost of a single nuclear attack by terrorists is between $250 billion and $1 trillion.

So never mind the electricity by-product; if this program kept nuclear weapons out of the wrong hands, then it was well worth it [washington.edu] for that reason alone.

US Hegemony (2)

hawkeey (1920310) | about 4 months ago | (#45662783)

While some people complain about the geopolitical status of the United States, it has to remembered that the US emerged from isolationism outside the Western hemisphere only after the second World War. Sure there was some involvement after the Spanish-American war and the first World War, but current state of affairs was created by the actions of countries around the world. If there is anything especially exceptional about the United States, it is that it is a large political conglomerate that continuously assimilates immigrants.

Cooperation between nuclear powers can only benefit humanity as a whole. A system of friendly competition and cooperation between countries than the wanton destructiveness of general war.

2 Years' Worth of Electricity for $17 Billion? (1, Insightful)

spmkk (528421) | about 4 months ago | (#45663535)

If I'm reading the article right, that entire supply of fuel-grade uranium set us back a total of $17B. If we can produce 10% of our nation's power for 20 years (i.e. supply 2 years' worth of our country's TOTAL electricity needs) on half of what Apple brings in per quarter, why on earth are we bothering with wind farms and solar arrays?

and to think... (4, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 4 months ago | (#45664143)

the us spent almost fifty years worried by the prospect of russian nukes lighting up their cities

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