10.01.2008 0

Nuclear Energy: A Recyclable Energy Solution

  • On: 10/07/2008 15:55:35
  • In: Energy Crisis, Global Warming Fraud, and the Environment

  • In this week’s edition of “Meet John Doe,” we travel to the State of Pennsylvania to promote a solution to America’s energy crisis for a surprising source: three students from Bucks County Community College.

    They propose reprocessing nuclear waste instead of storing it, because once reprocessed it remains a reusable fuel source. Therefore, nuclear is in fact a recyclable energy solution.

    Currently it is illegal to recycle nuclear waste under Federal law enacted under the Carter administration, but that may change if these bright, young students have their way. And if the youth of America can figure out how to fix this problem, perhaps that means that one day Congress will see the light and shift America’s base-load of energy production to nuclear.

    Here follows Andre Soffel, Lisa Suggs, and Mason Darrow’s guest opinion piece as appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times on May 8th, 2008:

    “Why not reprocess nuclear waste into a fuel source?


    “Nuclear plants generate 20 percent of America’s electric power while coal-burning plants generate over 50 percent, but nuclear power is the only energy source that can supply America’s electric power needs without creating greenhouse gases. One of the major objections to nuclear electricity generation is the need to store waste nuclear fuel. However, new “breeder” reactors are able to reuse waste fuel by reprocessing it into a mixed oxide fuel, which can power a reactor that burns low enriched uranium, thus “breeding” more fuel than it consumes. So our stockpiles of waste nuclear fuel actually become a new source of fuel!

    “Europe adopted this nuclear fuel recycling method more than 30 years ago. France has been able to clean up 23,000 tons of waste with one facility, creating enough electric power to keep France running for 14 years. Nuclear fuel recycling made the Europeans less dependent on imported fossil fuels. America rejected this nuclear fuel recycling method 30 years ago due to a possibility of weapon proliferation, but there have been zero incidents in Europe to date. Another benefit of recycling the waste is it separates the plutonium and uranium, reducing their half-lives to only 30-40 years. By contrast, the half-life for the material we presently consider nuclear waste is over 25,000 years.

    “The $6 billion cost of building a breeder nuclear power plant is a big investment, but the benefit is big, too. Breeder reactors produce 60 to 80 times the amount of power that is in fissionable natural (normal) uranium 235, which now costs $80/kg. Nuclear power plants are known for their high efficiency; in the first quarter of 2007, nuclear power plants in the U.S. ran at 94 percent of capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Compared to the cost of the Iraq War at $456 billion through September 2007, the investment of tax dollars in a non-polluting, highly efficient, electric power source that would pay for itself quickly seems highly affordable.

    “To reduce our CO2 emissions, the U.S. must cut down on the use of coal-fired electric power plants. Fossil fuels contribute almost 10 billion tons of carbon ;dioxide to the air each year. Coal power plants are an inefficient (30-35 percent) source of power (Annual Energy Outlook 2008) and are a major source of U.S. air pollution, responsible for 33 percent of mercury, 60 percent of sulfur dioxide, and 33 percent of CO2 emissions.

    “The problem is that coal power produces over 50 percent of U.S. electric power and it is cheaper in comparison because our plants are so old that they are already paid for. With 2008 world oil demand expected to increase by 2 percent (International Energy Agency, Paris) to 86.1 million barrels/year, we must find new ways to lower our oil and coal dependence.

    “Nuclear electric power plants produce just 6.5 percent of total world energy consumption (EIA, May 2003) with oil at 38.7 percent, coal at 23.7 percent and natural gas at 23.1 percent. Natural resources are not going to last forever, and we need a source of energy that will last, be efficient, and reduce our worldwide pollution. America has over 100 nuclear electric power facilities spread out over the country and 126 waste storage facilities. At Yucca Mountain alone, there is 72,000 tons of waste beneath the ground, and America produces nearly 2,200 tons of additional nuclear waste annually to add to the storage requirement.

    “Nuclear fuel reprocessing can reduce our long-term nuclear waste storage needs by turning the waste into fuel, thus providing a long-term source of low cost nuclear fuel. If you want to help change our energy policies and believe that the idea of recyclable nuclear energy needs to be explored, then write or call your congressman, and vote for public officials who can face facts and take effective action.

    “Sources available upon request.

    Andre Soffel, Lisa Suggs and Mason Darrow are students at Bucks County Community College.”

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