Nuke waste debate: Turn it into glass or encase in cement?

May 4, 2017 by Nicholas K. Geranios

Congress should consider authorizing the U.S. Department of Energy to study encasing much of the nuclear waste at the nation's largest waste repository in a cement-like mixture instead of turning it into glass logs, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Doing so before burying the would be less expensive than a process called vitrification to turn the waste into the logs, said the report issued Wednesday.

The process called grouting might also allow waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in a remote part of southcentral Washington state to be treated more quickly, the report said.

The waste is left over from plutonium production for nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan that led to the end of World War II.

The Energy Department replied that it agreed with the office's recommendations but Washington state officials still believe the best way to safely deal with the waste and protect the environment is by turning it into glass.

"We remain firm in our conviction that vitrification, or glass, is the superior process," said Alex Smith, manager for the state's Department of Ecology's Nuclear Waste Program.

There have been numerous delays in treating the waste stored in tanks at Hanford. Smith said fear a study on a different way to deal with the waste could "redirect critical funding away from the ongoing work to get treatment processes up and running by 2023."

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, also voiced concerns that launching a new study could delay the work.

"We can't afford to get distracted from the job at hand," Cantwell said.

Hanford has about 56 million gallons (211 million liters) of waste stored in underground tanks until it can be treated for permanent disposal. Some tanks date back to World War II and are leaking.

Another 42 million gallons (159 million liters) of similar waste from production is stored at the government's Savannah River Site in western South Carolina near Georgia.

The process to encase waste there in the cement-like mixture called grout has been used for small amounts of the waste.

Ground was broken at Hanford in 2002 for a $17 billion vitrification plant—one of the federal government's most expensive construction projects—to separate much of the waste into high-level and low-level radioactive material.

But the plant's construction has been halted by design and safety concerns. After the highly radioactive waste is immobilized in the glass logs, it would be shipped to a national repository proposed for Yucca Mountain in Nevada which has not been built.

The proposal to study cement-like encasement would only apply to waste with lower levels of radioactivity representing about 90 percent of the Hanford waste.

The Energy Department decided two decades ago to turn Hanford's tank waste into glass logs but the new report said innovations in grouting technology now make that more attractive.

No tank waste has yet been treated at Hanford despite Energy Department spending of more than $19 billion, the report said.

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14 comments

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gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) May 05, 2017
Another legacy of nuclear technology.

Good thing we can outgrow it.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) May 05, 2017
Well, how about encasing the glassified waste in grout? The problem is with it being exothermic, as well as serving as points of nucleation for crystallization.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (4) May 05, 2017
"A flight between Europe and North America, expose you to more radiation than hanging with friends around nuclear waste"
https://uploads.d...6cd9.jpg
Solar panels are full chemical carcinogens and arsenide worse than asbestos. Windmills kill birds and ruin natural landscapes.
It's time to support eco-friendly carbon-free nuclear energy.
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) May 05, 2017
We can't afford it Willie.

Vogtle has KILLED Toshiba/Westinghouse, and now it is threatening our $8,300,000,000 loan guarantee you do not like to see as a subsidy.

http://www.power-...le.html?

"Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning has said the company needs $3.7 billion and cooperation from Toshiba to finish the Vogtle nuclear plant expansion in Georgia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The plant was being constructed by Toshiba's now-bankrupt Westinghouse subsidiary. Fanning said he wasn't certain Toshiba can finish the half-built reactors, even with the extra money.

"We are working with Toshiba to receive complete assurance as to the $3.7B guarantee that they owe us, whether we finish the project or not," Fanning said."

But Toshiba is broke, so guess who is going to PAY for this Nuclear Blunder???
WillieWard
3 / 5 (4) May 05, 2017
We can't afford it...
If you want to realize the real cost of wind/solar placebos, install it on your home and disconnect from the grid.
"An offshore wind farm in Rhode Island went online Monday, but building it costed $150,000 for every household powered."
"To put this in some perspective, the U.S.'s newest nuclear reactor ... only about $1,044 per household"
"This means powering a home with the Block Island wind farm is almost 144 times more expensive than powering a home with the newest U.S. nuclear reactor."
http://dailycalle...powered/
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) May 06, 2017
Is "America's newest reactor" at Vogtle?

And your math shows us why you are here instead of working. The wind powered sites do not need fuel, do not need hundreds of highly-trained nuclear scientists, and will run far longer than a thermal system with temperature changes.

And NO nuclear waste, Willie. None.
gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) May 06, 2017
"If you want to realize the real cost of wind/solar placebos, install it on your home and disconnect from the grid."
--------------------------------------------
Almost there, Willie. Next year the storage prices will be low enough for us to go off grid if we want.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (4) May 06, 2017
...do not need hundreds of highly-trained nuclear scientists...
Without subsidies and cheap fossil fuels, solar/wind placebos are not economically sustainable.
"Inconvenient energy fact: It takes 79 solar workers to produce same amount of electric power as one coal worker"
http://www.aei.or...-worker/
"solar received 281 times more in subsidies per unit of electricity than nuclear, while wind received 17 times more, according to the Energy Information Administration."
https://uploads.d...fcc7.jpg
http://www.thecal...5929222/
https://www.eia.g...subsidy/
"How much Solar workers contract skin cancer during their professional activities?"
https://www.ncbi....26995016
WillieWard
3 / 5 (4) May 06, 2017
Next year the storage prices will be low enough for us to go off grid if we want.
Another 100% renewable fiasco at cost of taxpayers' hard-earned money and ecological impacts:
"100% renewables fail. This small island of El Hierro has been attempting to power itself with wind, solar, and pumped hydro for 3 years, but the diesel back is still the mainstay electricity generators."
http://euanmearns...-update/
https://www.boe.e...013-9944
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) May 06, 2017
Well, gosh, Willie, my panels work just fine. And a lot of folk would love one of those clean modern 79 jobs created by getting rid of coal, and making the skies clear again, and costing less than the original plants.
WillieWard
2.3 / 5 (3) May 07, 2017
...my panels work just fine...
disconnect from the fossil-fueled grid and tell us the real costs.
If wind/solar energy is sold 2¢/kWh, sometimes prices go negative, and if it employs 80 times more worikers, how it will become economically sustainable without subsidies and cheap fossil fuels it's still a mystery.
In the end, wind, solar, electric car subsidies are a way of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.
https://uploads.d...d91e.jpg
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) May 07, 2017
Well, gosh, Willie, my panels work just fine
george kamburoff the psychopath paints black rectangles on his roof for google maps spies, and calls his Buick EV so he can come here and brag about it and pretend anybody is impressed.

Nobody gives any Shit whatsoever george.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (6) May 07, 2017
If wind/solar energy is sold 2¢/kWh, sometimes prices go negative, and if it employs 80 times more worikers, how it will become economically sustainable without subsidies and cheap fossil fuels it's still a mystery."
------------------------------------

Yes, Willie, we understand it is a big mystery to you.

But it works for me and our power system.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2017
If wind/solar energy is sold 2¢/kWh, sometimes prices go negative, and if it employs 80 times more worikers, how it will become economically sustainable without subsidies and cheap fossil fuels it's still a mystery."
------------------------------------

Yes, Willie, we understand it is a big mystery to you.

But it works for me and our power system.
george kamburoff the psychopath paints black rectangles on his roof for google maps spies, and also calls his Buick EV so he can come here and brag about it and pretend anybody is impressed.

Nobody gives any Shit whatsoever george.

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