Imagine nuclear waste stored at Katandra Reserve

A mocked up image of a nuclear power plant. Image: The Conversation

Forum –

There will always be environmental problems with energy generation, transformation, transport and consumption.

Probably the main problem will be energy conversion efficiencies as energy losses from the conversion and transmission systems necessitate larger installations to provide the overall energy requirement of and to the customer.

There is also the problem of disposal of used generating equipment.

Solar panels have a useable life of 20 to 30 years in commercial installations.

They can and are being recycled (aluminium and glass recovery), while panels whose output may have decreased below commercial requirements can still be used at reduced costs in less demanding situations.

Wind turbine blades can last up to 30 years before maintenance replacement.

Research is underway on the production of wind turbine blades that can be recycled (Scientific American November 27, 2020).

This technology may take some years to fully develop.

Hydro systems, both generation and pumped storage, involve the construction of water catchment systems and dams – no need to explain the environmental impact.

Batteries (rechargeable varieties) can and are being recycled.

This leaves the main problem with nuclear energy.

What period of time is required for the safe, radiation free disassembly of a nuclear reactor at the end of its design life?

Spent fuel rods can and are processed to recover the original un-reacted uranium atoms so replacement rods can be manufactured.

However, the separated highly radioactive fission products cannot be recycled to other uses and must be stored in biological isolation until their level of radioactivity has decreased to biologically safe levels.

In some cases this may take tens or even hundreds of thousands of years.

Comments have been made that Australia has an extremely large renewable energy capability with technology already in existence.

Perhaps this is the main reason (CCN317) why decisions have been made for Australia not to start on the nuclear energy path.

Finally, if all the used nuclear waste products from the US, as claimed, can be stored in a volume of 100 x 50 x 10 metres (CCN 316) imagine the storage facility being placed at Katandra reserve, Mount Elliot.

How far would the biological isolation zone extend plus the security extension and for what period of time?

The reserve would be unusable and surrounding acreages would have to be resumed.

Email, Nov 8
Col Hodgson, Mount Elliot