This is obviously not GPS related but I am wondering if anybody is following this news. I work in the nuclear industry so I get a lot of information and need to pay some attention for work reasons.
Within the last week, TEPCO, the plant operator, got a new cooling system into one of the plants for the spent fuel pool. They are working on getting that in place for the other units. That is a significant step in terms of getting the plants completely stable and eliminating the fire hose routine used to keep the pools full of water that results in movement of radioactivity.
Another big deal is the acknowledgement that some of the workers got, by any measure, too much dose. Up to about 70 Rem. In this country, the legal limit of 5 Rem. TEPCO was using an authorized emergency 25 Rem limit. So they lost control - a bad thing. The immediate effect for the workers is nothing but long term there is some risk of cancer in various forms.
Lastly, the NRC acknowledged on the 15th that Chairman Jaczko was wrong when he said in March that the spent fuel pit of Unit 4 had gone dry. There is a video showing TEPCO was right, the fuel remained covered. It was reckless of Jaczko to ever say this with obviously incomplete information. I wonder if this, like Yucca mountain unilateral action, will be called into question by congress.
Comments or questions?
I find it so wrong that many people panic at the thought of radiation, yet for over 100 years coal fired plants have been and continue to spew heavy metals into our lakes and streams, absorbed by fish and possibly our drinking water.
Politicians are scrambling because AEP announced it has to close 3 coal fired generation plants in West Virginia (coal country) because they cannot meet the EPA limits in time. Like they didn't have plenty of notice.
So why can't we put spent fuel in the hopper along with uranium ore and recycle it?
Spent fuel can be recycled but it is not currently economic. Uranium gives off only alpha radiation so it can be safely handled by humans without shielding. We just have to be careful not to breath it or eat it. Once we irradiate uranium, it turns into different materials that hare strong beta and gamma emitters - so they are more dangerous and people cannot handle them. Plutonium, for instance, is produced by irradiation of U238 which is most of the uranium in the fuel (the U235 is less than 5% of the uranium). Plutonium is dangerous both chemically and from radiation. Recycling thus requires a lot of robotics which drives up the cost of the fuel.
Most of us think we should continue to refine the recyling process, develop the technology, and store the spent fuel so that we can retrieve it for when the economic incentive for recycling exists. As long as we have lots of reasonably inexpensive uranium, it's cheaper just to use a once through cycle.
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