BN 350, BN 600, Breeder Reactor, Dounreay, Fast Breeder, Fast Reactor, Fermi, Fukushima, GE-Hitachi, IFR, Integral Fast Reactor, Joyo, KNK II, liquid metal reactor, liquid sodium cooled reactor, Monja, Monju, nuclear, nuclear power plant, nuclear waste, Nuclear Waste container, Nuclear Waste containment, Pandora, Pandora's Hope, Pandora's Promise, Phenix, Pithos, PRISM, Superphenix
If we told you that below was the latest computer technology today and that the price was about 30 times your income, wouldn’t you think that we were insane if you compare size and price to new computers or tablets such as the ipad mini or air? We would be laughed out of the room. Would it make it better if we made it available in pink, green, and blue perhaps?
IBM System 360-91, late 1960s, NASA
But, besides price what else could go wrong with this computer? Well, its water cooling system occasionally sprung leaks, it seems… Do you have room in your home for such a monstrosity? Although computers have advanced tremendously because they have been prioritized in research and development – unlike nuclear waste solutions-even they have reportedly had their glitches of batteries catching afire and screens exploding. So too have cars been recalled.
At any rate, Pandora’s Promise with GE-Hitachi’s “PRISM” reactors appear to be peddling a nuclear “solution”, which dates back to the same period of 1950s to 60s as the IBM System 360 (introduced in 1964) pictured above. PRISM is a type of (Integral) Fast Reactor (a type of Breeder Reactor) that uses liquid sodium coolant technology, which has proved repeatedly not only that it does not work well, but that it is extremely dangerous. Just how dangerous? Well, they use plutonium and they are cooled by a liquid sodium which ignites upon exposure to air and explodes upon contact with water. This is very, very bad for a nuclear power plant! It appears an especial problem at maintenance time.
Now some people worry that there is a risk of the plutonium fuel for these reactors falling into the hands of terrorists. But, why worry about that when you can have the government-electric company put the potential equivalent of a dirty bomb or worse in your own neighborhood or backyard with an Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)?!
If all of the rich folk in this film (and anyone else) want to use their money by investing in a non-profit-charity doing serious research into how to permanently address the problem of nuclear waste, all while understanding that if they go up the wrong path then they have to start again, and NOT market a faulty-failed technology, then we are all for it. Someone must do it. It is critically urgent.
Someone needs to get serious with addressing the nuclear waste issue but this old technology being marketed as new, does not address the problem and it creates more risk. Nuclear waste is the most critical problem of our day and age.
Are we really supposed to take seriously the PRISM, Integral Fast Reactor, or similar “options” which make more waste lasting hundreds or 1,000s of years, along with slightly less waste lasting millions of years? All the while, as of late 2012, early 2013, the US and German governments still have salt domes on the table of options for long-term nuclear waste storage, when these have been shown to leak in less than 20 years? Or, even collapse as is the case of the Bayou Corne, aka Louisiana sinkhole? The Bayou Corne sinkhole had already started imploding by the time of these US Government reports. Radioactive NORM was put in this salt-dome. There is apparently a methane leak which puts it at risk for explosion, too. In the immortal words of Hank Williams: Son of a gun gonna have big fun on the Bayou!
This is not a game folks to play around with. Nuclear anything is serious business. It’s not the stock market to fool around and manipulate. People think that the stock market collapse nearly pulled the world apart but it is nothing like nuclear disasters or radiation.
Meanwhile, in order to reduce the radioactivity down to hundreds or 1,000s of years we are supposed to waste billions more on a technology which has proven inoperable, irreparable, and prone to blow up scattering radiation everywhere. Read, for instance, about Fermi 1 (US), Dounreay (Scotland), Phenix, Superphenix (France), Japan’s Monju, and fuel fabrication facility for Joyo, USSR-BN-350, BN-360, Germany’s KNK II and others:
“The history of fast neutron reactors throughout the world has been marked by both safety and economic failure. There have been over twenty of these reactors built since 1951 in seven countries, all of which have been funded through government programs.” http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/_docs/FastReactors.pdf
How many volunteers lining up for one in their backyards? A nuclear power plant based on plutonium with a coolant which ignites in contact with air and explodes on contact with water?
“As a nuclear industry representative has noted…: ‘We know that the paper-moderated, ink-cooled reactor is the safest of all. All kinds of unexpected problems may occur after a project has been launched.” http://www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power/ifrs In contemporary terms, a computer model reactor is the safest. Unexpected problems happen in the real world, and they have repeatedly with this type of reactor.
Let’s Get Serious: Let’s Close Pandora’s Pithos and Get on with the Research
Countries, and any rich folk willing to volunteer no-strings-attached money, need to put forth a serious effort like the USA put forth to land man on the moon, in an effort to address the nuclear waste. We have opened Pandora’s Box and let out the evils of nuclear.
Now we must put the brightest minds and adequate funding to work on finding a solution of dealing with the waste which puts the entire planet in jeopardy. We cannot solve it with facile, decades old failed and costly solutions like flammable, explosive, liquid sodium cooled, plutonium based, Integral Fast Reactors (a type of Breeder Reactor) such as PRISM. And, PRISM is a GE-Hitachi product — one of the companies which brought us Fukushima.
In Wikipedia we are informed that it’s not Pandora’s Box anyway, but rather Pandora’s Pithos, which may be translated as urn or vase. At the rate we are going with the nuclear energy and waste the funeral urn is where we are all headed unless we shut the blasted thing.
Pithos: ht 1.56 m (5 ft. 1 1/4 in.), Diam. 87 cm (34 1/4 in.)
However, that is not what a Pithos was:
“Pithos, plural pithoi (Ancient Greek πίθος, πίθοι) was the Ancient Greek name of a large storage container used for bulk storage, primarily fluids and grains—among the civilizations that bordered the Mediterranean Sea in the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and the succeeding Iron Age. They were comparable to the drums, barrels and casks of recent times.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pithos
And, that is exactly what is needed and where the hope lies: In the very unglamorous but interesting and intellectually challenging work of finding nuclear waste storage solutions, of finding the ideal Pithos or “barrel” to store the waste in, in a retrievable location, until such a time, if ever, a way may be found to transmute-destroy the waste in a way which really works.
But, in the interim people must put in the research time and monies. One small step to putting the lid back onto Pandora’s Pithos or barrel (canister) is the US government’s recent $15.8 million commitment (over 5 years) to developing better nuclear waste containers. This is of a total of $60 million requested for nuclear waste research. http://energy.gov/articles/energy-department-announces-new-investment-nuclear-fuel-storage-research Compare this to $400 million spent on Spirit Mars Rover. Which is more important? Other countries are taking the container issue even less seriously. Where are our priorities? This is a life and death matter!
So, after all of the evils of nuclear have been let out, hope is literally stuck IN the barrel or pithos. The only hope is in locking the evils let loose by Pandora within resistant containers, which are accessible until and if a perfect solution is found. Or, indeed the hope may be in finding the ideal container. But, they must be watched lest the evils of radiation get back out. All of this can create the much wanted jobs, as well.
What are some of the challenges of a proper Pithos, storage containment, for Nuclear Waste? Heat resistance, corrosion resistance, water resistance, explosion resistance. The stakes are very, very high.
For a summary of some of the problems related to the Fast Reactors promoted in Pandora’s Promise see Public Citizen:
“Fast Reactors Unsafe, Uneconomical, and Unable to Resolve the Problems of Nuclear Power“. http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/_docs/FastReactors.pdf
They also note that:
“In the push for nuclear power, proponents of fast neutron reactors have portrayed this design as a new, promising technology that could resolve the question of managing long-lived radioactive waste. But the idea of fast neutron reactors is not a new one. Ever since the first experimental fast neutron reactor generated electricity in 1951 governments around the world have made huge investments into their development, but the return has been minimal. After decades of research and experimentation, fast neutron reactors remain unsafe, uneconomical, and unable to address the problems of nuclear power.” http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/_docs/FastReactors.pdf (bold added)
This whole thing of marketing an old failed technology like new reminds us of a Huey Long speech. We might adapt it as follows:
It is “…just like the old patent medicine drummer that used to come around our country. He had two bottles of medicine. He’d play a banjo and he’d sell two bottles of medicine. One of those bottles of medicine was called High Popalorum and another one of those bottles of medicine was called Low Popahirum. Finally somebody around there said is there any difference in these bottles of medicines? ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘considerable. They’re both good but they’re different,’ he said. ‘That High Popalorum is made from the bark off the tree that we take from the top down. And that Low Popahirum is made from the bark that we take from the root up.” “Used with Permission of the Long Legacy Project, www. HueyLong.com” May we learn from his wisdom.
Or, perhaps more succinctly: “A Sucker is born every minute”. Are we going to be one?