Process Controls in Nuclear Waste Handling

Process Controls in Nuclear Waste Handling - Liptak Talks...

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This article was printed in CONTROL's September 2009 edition. Read Bela Liptak's six part series "Process Controls Prevent Nuclear Disasters," to learn how process controls could have prevented past nuclear accidents and how it could improve the safety of the nuclear power industry. Visit www.controlglobal.com/liptaknuclear.html By Béla Lipták, PE, Columnist In the previous five articles on nuclear safety, I have written about past nuclear accidents and the ways how process control could have prevented them. Besides meltdowns and leaks, accidents can also occur due to earthquakes, ageing and terrorist attacks. I have also discussed the relative costs of fossil, renewable and nuclear power plants and noted that renewable cost are dropping while the costs of building traditional ones is rising. Here I will concentrate on the role of process control can play in reducing the risks associated with the transportation and storage of nuclear wastes. We cannot be sure if the problem of nuclear waste storage will be ever solved, but we can be sure that the cost of permanent storage could exceed both the building and the decommissioning costs of nuclear power plants. The yearly waste production of each nuclear reactor is about 20 tons of high-level nuclear waste. In the United States, there already are in temporary storage some 30,000 tons of spent fuel rods and some 380,000 cubic meters of other highly level radioactive wastes. A Distant Dream As a distant dream, let me also mention the idea of nuclear waste transmutation. It is somewhat similar to the dream of the medieval alchemist's dream of "transmuting" lead into gold. Some nuclear industry people hope that someday it might be possible to change the high-level nuclear waste into much less dangerous wastes. Under the U.S. Accelerator Transmutation of Waste Program, Los Alamos and other Department of Energy laboratories are studying this and developing such accelerator-driven technologies. If you want to read about this "pipe dream," go to: http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/pa/science21/ATW.html I do emphasize that transmutation is only a dream, because right now the American nuclear fuel technology is actually going backwards: An example of this is that the only American fuel producer (USEC) uses 55-year-old gas diffusion technology, which is not competitive with the new European centrifuging technologies, because it requires 20 times the energy to produce the same fuel. Liptak Talks about the Role of Process Control in Nuclear Safety and How It Can Plays in Reducing the Risks Associated with the Transportation and Storage of Nuclear Wastes 09/11/2009
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Weapons-grade plutonium from the dismantling of American nuclear weapons is presently stored in locations like Amarillo, Texas. It takes about 20 pounds of separated plutonium to build a dirty bomb. This means that just in the United States there is enough plutonium in these storage facilities to build over 15,000 dirty bombs. By definition, radioactive waste can be low-level (LLW), intermediate-level (ILW), high-level (HLW) and
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Process Controls in Nuclear Waste Handling - Liptak Talks...

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