Posting in Energy
Start-up Kurion looks to make glass from radioactive waste. Could this helps solve the nuclear industry's mounting disposal problem?
Even as more Americans are accepting nuclear power as one solution to our pesky greenhouse gas problem, there is still the big stinking mess of radioactive waste disposal that must be tackled (see: Nuclear waste? Not in Yucca's backyard).
Okay, the 70,000 metric tons or so of radioactive waste we have stored in temporary facilities across the country probably doesn't stink, but I hope to never have my nose so close to find out. I do know, however, that glass doesn't stink. Or leak.
And glass is what start-up Kurion (Curie + ion) wants to turn liquid nuclear waste into through a process called vitrification (shown above). Vitrification can also produce ceramics.
Kurion's website is sparse, without much detail to how their clean energy solutions are "modular, quickly deployable, work with existing systems, and substantially reduce our customers' total lifecycle costs."
But the site does list the company's management heads comprised of nuclear and glass industry experts and its advisory board, which includes Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and now co-chair of the nuclear lobbying group CASEnergy Coalition.
Michael Kanellos of Greentech Media reports:
England has used vitrification to store some of its nuclear waste while countries like Japan that reprocess most of their nuclear waste into fuel employ vitrification for nuclear materials that aren't reconverted into fuel...
The U.S. has experimented with vitrification for years and planned to use some form of vitrification at Yucca Mountain. It has even looked at the "synthetic rock" process developed in Australia.
But as we know, Yucca Mountain as a storage facility is a no-go. Whether vitrification will go ahead to reprocess America's past and future nuclear waste remains to be seen.
Via: Greentech Media
Apr 28, 2010
The problem with waste vitrification is that metals in the glass leach out into the surrounding environment. This is why, for instance, the lead containing glass from computer monitors is a contamination problem for landfills. The vitrified waste is sometimes packaged in welded-shut, metal canisters, both to protect the glass from leaching, and to contain our-gassing daughters (e.g. Tritium). Of course, if the metal corrodes through, you are right back to the leaching problem. One of the major problems at Yucca Mountain is the saltiness of the Nevada tuff material. In the presence of even a little water, canisters are subject to corrosion and glass to leaching... Storing waste safely over the long term is fundamentally much harder than these folks are making it out to be.
Turn the high-level waste into a glass or ceramic sounds ideal. Dumping the stuff in deep water on the abyssal plain would keep it out of harms way for a very long time indeed - literally millions of years. Failing that (over the sensibilities of a few tube worms), then putting it inside Yucca Mtn (in the Great Basin) is the next best thing in spite of what the NIMBY fools that nixed that site say.
We need to stop thinking about long term storage and start thinking about this resource as part of the green energy solution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_nuclear_fusion
Why is the "pesky" ghg issue considered a bother still? Although, I get and even appreciate the use of such a trivializing reference and hope that people will recognize the matter as still unfounded and overdramatized when considered along with other dire matters that require immediate attention. While the consequences are still conjectures, there are many confounding factors to the environmental issues that need remedied, and the overdramatization should be criticized for its tone as well as the underlying motivation of the espouser. Would the converse be preferred where we have extensive glaciation and all the great times that go along with that? I enjoy snow sports and sleigh bells but we have to recognize the real issue. It is all about the need to meet energy requirements, especially transportation and electricity. The resolution of many alternatives, such as developing better ways for nuclear use and disposal, need to be reported and substantiated without the dubious attachment of "it's because of ghg". Vitreous inherently means to deal with glass but doesn't have the potential to shatter? What about methods to contain the waste and even emissions from the vitrification process? Seem like a concern to me. As well, Yucca Mtn is a storage faclility but just not officially designated as a solution to nuclear waste disposal or determined to be the long-term permanent storage facility. Supposedly defunded but it is one of the biggest and most expensive boondoggles in the history of industry and the federal government. Sure there is a security issue but the real matter is controlling potential leakage into the surrounding environment especially surface or groundwater sources. I would have thought tectonic issues would be addressed but then there are transportation, handling, and all those inherent matters but the most problematic is the human element. All too often we are having to suffer the dire consequences resulting from compromise due to affiliation and conflict of interest between industry and federal bureaucrats or politicians. Makes you wonder doesn't it? Thanks for bringing such good topics to our attention.
Check out this webpage: http://www.srs.gov/general/programs/solidification/index.htm Also, a much larger version of the facility above is being constructed right now in Washington state. http://www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/WTP Vitrification is alive and well. The glass logs were to be sent to Yucca Mountain far underground away from heat and with no path for toxins to be released. This is why Washington and South Carolina are suing DOE to stop the shutdown of the Yucca Mountain project. Without a permanent repository, the glass logs will have to sit at the facility in which they were made indefinitely. And, no, this glass is not suitable for use in buildings. The high-level waste they are made out of is still VERY radioactive and will be for thousands of years. Plus, I don't think it is clear.
Sidhale, all the reprocessing in the world will not turn Cesium - 137, a daughter of Plutonium fission, into a 100 year storage issue. Time to safe disposal is 10 half lives, or circa 380 years. So the longer you burn your fast breeder,the WORSE the problem becomes. Nuclear is an economic dead end. The VERY PERMANENT storage will cost more than all the electricity is worth.
So what happens with the glass they make? Will "storage glass" be reused in buildings? What happens if the glass breaks or is exposed to really high temperatures, like in a fire? Is "vitrifying" nuclear waste going to keep toxins from being released into the air forever? Sorry for the barrage of questions... I find this article very provocative!
Vitrification has been around for YEARS. Sellafield pioneered this approach in the late 80s/early 90s as a safe(r) alternative to pumping the waste into the Irish Sea ;-) The sooner the world realises what a missed opportunity nuclear power is, the better. Jb.
We need to build fast breeder reactors on existing nuclear reactor sites, and reuse this so called "waste" until it only has a a half life of a hundred years or so.