Normally I’m in favour of nuclear recycling. When it means re-using the material in used nuclear fuel, I’m all for it. After all, I support the Three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. But when it means recycling tired propaganda, my favour declines. For example, anti-nuclear activists try to fool others into believing it’s not possible to recycle nuclear fuel. They call all used fuel “waste,” hoping to perpetuate the false notion that nuclear “waste” is a huge, unsolvable problem. It is not huge, and it was solved before the first reactor ever started.
As I pointed out last post, nuclear reactors produce only minuscule amounts of waste. Even with the once-through fuel cycle, nuclear reactors can run almost continuously for decades and store all their used fuel on site. I gave Douglas Point as an excellent example: this reactor ran for 17 years, and all of its used fuel is stored on a small patch of ground right outside the containment building.
Fossil-fired generators, on the other hand, store none of their byproducts on site. Natural gas-fired generators, which anti-nuclear activists support, dump all of their exhaust into the air.
Most of this exhaust is carbon dioxide, a highly stable compound that will remain on earth, either in the atmosphere or in a “sink” like the ocean or weathering rock, for hundreds of thousands of years (see article).
And this CO2 would not fit into the used-fuel storage bays that you would find at a nuclear site. This is because gas-fired generators belch it out in gargantuan amounts. A single 500 megawatt gas-fired generator running at 80 percent capacity factor would dump over 1.9 million tons of CO2 into the air in a single year. You couldn’t store even a tiny fraction of that on site.
Funny, then, that anti-nuclear lobbyists who call for gas never mention this. Instead, they gamble that the average citizen who is unfamiliar with the numbers will believe their spin that nuclear waste is a huge problem. Sadly, because most people are trusting and non-cynical, many people believe them.
People should not be fooled. The anti-nuclear crowd’s attempt to pass natural gas off as clean is like the canning industry’s attempts in the early 20th Century to pass off “poisoned rats, rope ends, splinters, and other debris … as potted ham.” When the public learned about this, initially by reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, they were disgusted and outraged.
How will the public react when they catch on to the propaganda of the anti-nuclear lobby?