Reply To: Climate, the science, politics, economics and anything else

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Michael norton, 17:38:

“I suspect the ramming through of this project in the Bristol Channel was partially about having Nuclear Power but also weapon grade stuff for our Trident missiles

No. Reactors use up (low enriched) uranium, and cannot produce highly enriched uranium. There is some plutonium in the spent fuel. To make it into weapons it would need to be extracted by reprocessing, but the UK already has a stockpile of over 100 tonnes of quite pure plutonium. It only takes a few kilos to make a bomb, so 100 tonnes is an immense amount. It is considered a liability because it needs to be constantly guarded. The UK has no need of any more weapons-grade material; quite the opposite.

On the other hand, having nuclear experts and expertise certainly is associated with nuclear weapons, but the naval reactor facilities offer opportunities for those.

“Then what do you do with the poison?”

It is possible to use it up in “fast spectrum” reactors and get a vast amount of energy from it, but comparatively very few such reactors have ever been built. Theoretically you’d be left with waste that would decay to background radiation levels in about 300 years rather than tens of thousands. This has been started in multiple countries, but funding has always been cut off so it has never been carried to completion.

So instead you reprocess it to reduce its volume and recover the useful stuff that’s in it, make it into a type of glass so that it can’t dissolve or otherwise spread, and bury it deep underground in a geologically suitable place. This should actually work safely; there really isn’t a huge amount of it in industrial terms and some chemical and biological agents etc. are far more dangerous, but due to widespread fear of all things nuclear, local communities always object.

You can see from my earlier comments that I disagree with using typical nuclear reactor designs to make power, but the problems are misunderstood and popular objections are based on fear rather than reason. Both the pro- and anti-nuclear lobbies have polarised the issues and thereby misled and confused the public. I myself had to work out the truth by comparing claims against the general principles of nuclear physics. I am in favour of prototyping reactors that could cook down nuclear waste and produce power in the process. This seems much better than burying reprocessed waste and thereby leaving it to future generations.