04 Sep 2014

On 3 Sep 2014 the Wall Street Journal reported that the USA government is soliciting ideas for trains suitable for hauling radioactive waste from nuclear power plants to disposal sites. Even though, at present, they have nowhere to go. Companies in that industrial sector were asked for ideas on how rail cars should be configured /obtained for hauling 150-ton casks filled with transuranic “spent nuclear fuel”. The government latest plan is to have an interim test storage site in the year 2021(it has not been disclosed where), and a long term geologic repository by 2048, even though currently no one acknowledges where the sites will/would be. Officials of U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) didn’t respond to messages that sought detailed comments. The responsibility of regulating shipments is jointly shared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Transportation (DoT).

The USA government issued a Request For Proposal(s) for developing/testing/certifying the necessary rolling stock . Proposals were also solicited regarding whether the rail cars should be brought or leased, given that the cars are expected to last for 30 years, and used on regular tracks, at standard speeds, with a payload of 150 ton casks. Additionally, casks must be accommodated, and positioned in the train, so that a safe distance is maintained between the radioactive cargo and a crew (yes they are still radioactive). It was not specified if one or more casks will be transported per train.

Spent nuclear fuel is very long term radioactive (transuranic), and must be placed in specially designed long term thermally/ radiologicaly hot casks when removed from reactors. Where to long term store such waste is another matter. Problem is nobody, but nobody, wants it in their back yards”(NIMBY). Spent nuclear fuel is already being sent by USA military by rail from reactors on navy ships for storage at Federal labs. More than 2,300 tons was hauled by the civilian power industry from the year 1979 to the year 2007 (equivalent to 15 casks). James Conca, senior scientist at Geoscience and Environmental Consulting firm UFA Ventures, Inc, says a Nuclear Waste Disposal Site has been monitored by him, and that it is necessary to do so.

Trains for transporting nuclear waste are not new to France where more than 10 shipments were made, to the chagrin of Germany into their territory. The matter of how and where to dispose of spent nuclear fuel that is dangerously transuranic remains a terrible legacy to leave future generations, but we must do so in the most environmentally sound, and responsible way. There are sound reasons to believe that the Spent Fuel Cooling Ponds of most Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) today, are already to the brim with many “transuranic loads” and that, is a terribly unsafe place to store them for many reasons we have outlined before. The NPP Industry has gotten us into a fine mess with no real long time solutions, but now wish for the government to help them get rid of their mess. OH!-they always resent/reject government intervention in their industry, but this is another matter. Self-serving hypocrites!

Another source of chagrin to those interested in energy matters, is the surreptitious way in which the USA government is proceeding, apparently without oversight, or regard for public opinion, on a matter of such transcendental importance. Have you read about these matters before the WSJ article? In a blog perhaps. We contacted the government source referenced in our previous article and were told that “the contractor” (whoever that is, could not be disclosed) had drafted the article. Yes!- the people that received the award, drafted an incoherent news release blessed/disseminated by DoE. How do you like them apples? Gone is the dogma of a transparent government, responsible and responsive to the people. Alas!-one more casualty of governmental gridlock. That reminds me of “The Grid”, but that is another matter.

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)


P.S. Do you wish to know more about Dry-cask storage of High-level nuclear waste ? Interesting illustrations too, but very sketchy info.

References: Dry Cask of spent nuclear fuel  (high-level waste)

September 4, 2014 at 9:01 PM Comments (4)