/ Sellafield Clean-Up costs 67bn (and rising)

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John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-21298117

At that kind of amount of money one does wonder how much it would cost to build tried and tested 60's space tech (Saturn V-with-another-stage etc) that we know will work first time and boost the d@mn stuff into the sun and be done with it.

Space programme and nuclear waste issue sorted simultaneously...

In reply to John_Hat:

Over 60 years since they started nuclear processing there and they still haven't a clue what to do with the waste - unbelievable!

Chris
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

Oh, by the way, the first person to come up with "But.....but....we'd be polluting the Sun with nuclear waste, we need to think of our children, and our children's children, etc... " Please go onto wiki and read about what the sun actually is...
EeeByGum - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat: I am no expert, but did know someone that did some work at Sellafield. The stuff sitting in pools isn't really the main problem. It is all the unknown sludge sitting in various sumps and in disused pipes buried inside 30ft of concrete that are the real challenges on that site.
Al Evans on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to EeeByGum: AS Chris said, but more so, it's conceivable that in the intial excitement nobody thought about getting rid of the waste, or maybe even realised it would be a problem, though with all the scientists involved I don't believe that. But by now surely a lot more effort should be being put into making the world safe from nuclear waste than building more reactors. Give me a wind turbine anyday.
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

The world is safe from nuclear waste. There's not much of it and of that there's even less that is truly nasty.

Or are you of the "it can blow up" opinion?

balmybaldwin - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-21298117
>
> At that kind of amount of money one does wonder how much it would cost to build tried and tested 60's space tech (Saturn V-with-another-stage etc) that we know will work first time and boost the d@mn stuff into the sun and be done with it.
>
> Space programme and nuclear waste issue sorted simultaneously...

The problem is the consequences of a space launch accident spreading it's cargo all over the world. Seems like a small chance, but with all that radioactivity around, we don't know how that would effect the rocket motors etc on the booster

Also, the payload for a Saturn 5 would make very little dent in the pile of waste, and we'd need more than a few a year just for us, not to mention the rest of the world'd waste.
The Lemming - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-21298117
>
> At that kind of amount of money one does wonder how much it would cost to build tried and tested 60's space tech (Saturn V-with-another-stage etc) that we know will work first time and boost the d@mn stuff into the sun and be done with it.
>

What would happen if the rocket blew up in the earth's atmosphere on route to the sun?
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to The Lemming:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
> [...]
>
> What would happen if the rocket blew up in the earth's atmosphere on route to the sun?

Waste would burn up in the atmosphere?

Actually, it's not a great option, but certainly think it's an idea comparable with sitting on it for another half-century.

The Lemming - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

I have two preferred sites to dump the waste which are London and Liverpool.
EeeByGum - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:

> Over 60 years since they started nuclear processing there and they still haven't a clue what to do with the waste - unbelievable!

Again - I believe the policy was simply that a future technology would solve the problem just like 10 Downing Street in the 50's believed we would all be flying helicopters by the 70's. We are now in the future and have to do something about it. The problems are immense. Imagine you have a hole filled with highly radio active sludge but you can't get anywhere near it. How do you get the sludge out of the hole and when you do, how to you get it into some state that you can handle it safely?

The engineers at Sellafield are basically being asked to wash up after a massive scientific cooking experiment where the original experiments didn't even think about how you might go about cleaning up. The nightmare they have there makes dried on Weetabix look like childs play!
EeeByGum - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> But by now surely a lot more effort should be being put into making the world safe from nuclear waste than building more reactors. Give me a wind turbine anyday.

My understanding is that given the experience gained from the past, modern reactors would not involve this problem at all. As humanity, we have more to fear from conventional energy sources than nuclear power. Unless we are prepared to turn off our heating and air conditioning, renewable power just ain't going to cut the mustard.
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to balmybaldwin:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
> [...]
>
>
> Also, the payload for a Saturn 5 would make very little dent in the pile of waste, and we'd need more than a few a year just for us, not to mention the rest of the world'd waste.

Actually:

Amount of high level waste stored at Sellafield: 6000 cubic m (per national registry)

Payload of saturn v : 45 tonnes. (to Trans-lunar-injection)

If we say that saturn v could carry 100 cubic m (assuming density of waste 50% of water) we'd need 60 of them...

hmmn.. Possibly a bigger rocket required... ah well, an extra stage would only add a billion quid or so?
EeeByGum - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to The Lemming:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
>
> I have two preferred sites to dump the waste which are London and Liverpool.

I'll have some. About 1 cubic meter of the stuff is enough to heat and power my house for the next 100,000 years! :-)
mkean - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
I strongly suspect that a large quantity of the waste is concrete and metal work so you are probably looking at closer to 10kg/L than 1. Also what is the failure rate on the Saturn rocket? A few launch vehicles have gone bang in the last 18 months :-)
Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to EeeByGum) AS Chris said, but more so, it's conceivable that in the intial excitement nobody thought about getting rid of the waste,

From what I read the other day, the problem was made worse in the 70s when they had to push the reactors so hard they couldn't keep up with the reprocessing - it was all because of those pesky miners striking!
balmybaldwin - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
>
> Over 60 years since they started nuclear processing there and they still haven't a clue what to do with the waste - unbelievable!
>
> Chris

I think the problem is that there is that the people in charge didn't read what teh scientists were saying, certainly ever since I've been aware of Nuclear power (about 20 years), the size of the clean-up operation has been well known.

what wasn't anticipated for some reason is that despite the fact we have reasonably failsafe methods of dealing with it, for some reason people don't like living near these sites.

That combined with massively escalting "danger money" paid to clear this stuff up (normally just to the companies, not the staff affected) has lead to astronimical increases in estimates for cleaning it up.

The oddest thing about this really is that Cumbria really would be one of the best places to put it - minimal population, and minimal distance from source which reduces cost and risk of transport and on top of that favourable geology.
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to EeeByGum:
> (In reply to The Lemming)
> [...]
>
> I'll have some. About 1 cubic meter of the stuff is enough to heat and power my house for the next 100,000 years! :-)

You have a point... could we use the radioactive decay to power something? Are we thinking about something as "waste" which should be thought of as a resource?
Flinticus - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
But we might destablise the sun's processes, causing it to go nova. Much better just to fling it as Venus, hopefully taking out the Venusian high command.
EeeByGum - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

> You have a point... could we use the radioactive decay to power something? Are we thinking about something as "waste" which should be thought of as a resource?

Absolutely - why not? This stuff is just sitting in giant swimming pools. All the hot water is simply cooled down and recirculated. All that energy is just doing nothing.
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EeeByGum - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> (assuming density of waste 50% of water) we'd need 60 of them...

Is that right? I thought a lot of the high level waste was full of heavy elements like Uranium and Plutonium etc all of which are many times heavier than water?
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to EeeByGum:

I was kind of going "on average", however you may well have a point and it's an erroneous assumption.. Up the number of rockets then!
Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

> If we say that saturn v could carry 100 cubic m (assuming density of waste 50% of water) we'd need 60 of them...

I had intended to be smart and look up the failure rate of the Saturn 5 and multiply it by 60 to see how many dirty bombs you were planning to set off. However it was a very successful programme.

The effect of explosion is terrible, even if the chance is low. The waste is very nasty toxic and radioactive elements. Strapping them to a rocket just looks crazy. Even the space shuttle wasn't reliable enough to look safe for 60 launches (and by safe you'd want several margins of error, not just better than 1 in 60).

I did wonder if rail gun technology could provide a propulsion mechanism to fire the cannisters into space, with a rocket system to collect and redirect them towards the sun. You'd eliminate the risk of air bourne disintegration, but there is still impact with the ground.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_driver
Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to EeeByGum)
>
> I was kind of going "on average", however you may well have a point and it's an erroneous assumption.. Up the number of rockets then!

I missed that cock-up. Water is totally the wrong "average" density to use.

If I could be bothered I could give you the exact figures - I have a lump of simulated (non-active) waste in the correct amount of glass sat on my desk.
Steve John B - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Philip:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> [...]
>
> From what I read the other day, the problem was made worse in the 70s when they had to push the reactors so hard they couldn't keep up with the reprocessing - it was all because of those pesky miners striking!

Where's Al? It's all Thatcher's fault! I KNEW it.
itsThere on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat: uranium is 17 times as dense as water and the lead around it to protect people when its on the rocked ...

Lets assume that its as dense as water and that we dont need to send anything else into space with it.

6000m^3 gives alot to be sent into space. That gives 6000000KG or 6000tons

6000/45=133 ish

at 100 million per launch that gives

130000 million or 137billion
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to itsThere:
> (In reply to John_Hat) uranium is 17 times as dense as water and the lead around it to protect people when its on the rocked ...
>
>
> at 100 million per launch that gives
>
> 130000 million or 137billion

You'd hope there would be some economies of scale kicking in at some point so it wouldn't be 100 million per launch..
jkarran - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

> At that kind of amount of money one does wonder how much it would cost to build tried and tested 60's space tech (Saturn V-with-another-stage etc) that we know will work first time and boost the d@mn stuff into the sun and be done with it.
> Space programme and nuclear waste issue sorted simultaneously...

You're kidding, right. There's hundreds of tons of the stuff. It won't leave Cumbria in my lifetime, for that matter I doubt it'll leave Cumbria full-stop. The only question is how serious an accident will it take before we finally agree to put it a little further out of harms way.

jk
Frank4short - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-21298117
>
> At that kind of amount of money one does wonder how much it would cost to build tried and tested 60's space tech (Saturn V-with-another-stage etc) that we know will work first time and boost the d@mn stuff into the sun and be done with it.
>
> Space programme and nuclear waste issue sorted simultaneously...

Maybe we could just get superman to do it for us?
mkean - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Philip:
Firing stuff into space with a railgun or gauss gun would be interesting but has a few issues:

- The worlds largest railgun is about 33MJoules with a virtually disposable barrel! The US Navy think isn't big enough for knocking holes in bunkers. It has taken 60 odd years to get this far and even if things continue to improve rapidly it'll be decades before we can loft stuff into space. I was going to work out how much effort it would actually take to loft an object the size of an oil drum out of Earths orbit but I ot a headache :-)

- I once saw a small homemade railgun misfire, you wouldn't want to be anywhere near a full sized one loaded with high level waste.

It would be easier and cheaper just to pick a random site in the UK and then give 1million to anyone living within 50 miles of it to support the planning application.
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Philip:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
> [...]
>
>
> If I could be bothered I could give you the exact figures - I have a lump of simulated (non-active) waste in the correct amount of glass sat on my desk.

Interesting. I guess my thoughts from the brief bit of discussion above would indicate that there's (currently) too much waste for our current technological level of rockets, but I'll admit the idea isn't so totally ridiculous as I thought when I posted the OP.
Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

You'll save a lot without the fuel, and you can't do it with the fuel.

Go with a density of 3 for the glass-encapsulated waste.

The volume at 6000m^3 must be the finished waste. Because the volume in storage before encapsulated is bandied around in terms of multiples of the albert hall and that is near 100,000 m^3.

So you've got "only" 2000 T to get rid of, but say 3000T allowing for error and the steel container. Forget shielding you can't go near these things - so if you need robots you just lose the shielding and save the weight.

You're still stuck for how to get it up safely. Even my mass driver suggestion will be problematic due to the heat generated as it travels.
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to mkean:

Actually, another idea...

How about dumping it into an active (molten rock) vent? Uranium is much heavier than rock, so would just work its way down into the earth's core...?
Philip on 04 Feb 2013
Just another fly in the ointment.

The 67bn would still be needed on top of you Saturn V programme. The 67bn is just to clean up. Not to safely store.
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Philip:

Hmmn.. possibly scratch the Sun idea until we have better tech then...
mkean - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
Lofting that lot with rockets would also be a bit of a sod for global warming, I think the "back of the fag pack" estimate is 1ton of rocket fuel for 1kg of payload into a high orbit.
mkean - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
How about dumping it into an active (molten rock) vent? Uranium is much heavier than rock, so would just work its way down into the earth's core...?

I think that has been thought of but doesn't meet the criteria for "long term storage" as it may all errupt in 1/2 a million years :-(

Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
> (In reply to mkean)
>
> Actually, another idea...
>
> How about dumping it into an active (molten rock) vent? Uranium is much heavier than rock, so would just work its way down into the earth's core...?

1. It's not uranium
2. I thought of this idea when I was about 8 and read about subduction zones.
3. Active, as in stuff coming out, is bad. Imagine trying to piss in turned on tap.
4. If it is going down into the core, the rate is so slow that you're still basically burying it underground, except you're doing it in a geologically unstable area - usually with ground water issue (or underwater).

5. It isn't uranium. It isn't even plutonium. It's nothing so useful. If you imagine an oil change on an engine. You could decontaminate the oil to recycle it but you would still end up with some awful sulphur chemicals that were poisonous and difficult to dispose of. It's the nuclear equivalent and it's radioactive too.
John_Hat - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Philip:

Ah well, back to sitting on it for long enough that a more final solution becomes cheap enough..
Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to mkean:

> It would be easier and cheaper just to pick a random site in the UK and then give 1million to anyone living within 50 miles of it to support the planning application.

Copeland voted for. Cumbria voted against. Cumbria has 500,000 people. 5bn would only give them 10k each.

50 mile radius from Copeland is bigger than Cumbria.

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mkean - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Philip:
Rockall is Granite isn't it? Nice and solid and not too many locals ;-)
Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to mkean:
> (In reply to Philip)
> Rockall is Granite isn't it? Nice and solid and not too many locals ;-)

I wondered that.

What about using the German continental deep drilling programme:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Continental_Deep_Drilling_Program

down into granite. Then hollow out a chamber and detonate a hydrogen bomb to vitrify the inside. The stick the casks down there.
Dauphin - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to jkarran:

Reading through the wiki on Sellafield it is not surprising that people are suspicious re nuclear power and waster disposal

>
>You're kidding, right. There's hundreds of tons of the stuff. It won't >leave Cumbria in my lifetime, for that matter I doubt it'll leave Cumbria >full-stop. The only question is how serious an accident will it take before >we finally agree to put it a little further out of harms way.

Odd that such a nationally / internationally important issue gets left to a county council to vote on; then we get to accuse them of nimbyism. Who would want any of that parked anywhere near them with BNFLs ( or whatever they are called this week) safety record?

D
mullermn - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:

This thread is as close as this link is ever going to get to being relevant on UKC and I thought it was quite interesting: http://what-if.xkcd.com/29/
TheDrunkenBakers - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to jkarran:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
>
> [...]
>
> You're kidding, right. There's hundreds of tons of the stuff. It won't leave Cumbria in my lifetime, for that matter I doubt it'll leave Cumbria full-stop. The only question is how serious an accident will it take before we finally agree to put it a little further out of harms way.
>
> jk

Ah, I like your thinking. You are talking about NI, right? If that wont stop those pesky rioters, nothing will. There's nothing good in NI anyway, is there?

In reply to Dauphin:
>
>
> Odd that such a nationally / internationally important issue gets left to a county council to vote on; then we get to accuse them of nimbyism. Who would want any of that parked anywhere near them with BNFLs ( or whatever they are called this week) safety record?
>
> D

Well it had been sat on their doorstep for half a century already!


Chris
In reply to all:

Fire it into space - what planet are you lot on? ;-)

I had a plan years back - encase the stuff in steel and concrete 'bullet-shaped' canisters (the bigger the better) and drop them into an active subduction zone - they will bury themselves in the sediment and then get carried deep down - job sorted. Cheap too!


Chris


Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to all)
>
> Fire it into space - what planet are you lot on? ;-)
>
> I had a plan years back - encase the stuff in steel and concrete 'bullet-shaped' canisters (the bigger the better) and drop them into an active subduction zone - they will bury themselves in the sediment and then get carried deep down - job sorted. Cheap too!

See my post above. I had the idea years ago too, but in my defence I was 8 and working from the Usbourne First Book of Science.

In reply to Philip:
> (In reply to Chris Craggs)
> [...]
>
> See my post above. I had the idea years ago too, but in my defence I was 8 and working from the Usbourne First Book of Science.

A subduction zone and a volcano aren't the same you know?


Chris

;-)
Lord of Starkness - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to EeeByGum:
> (In reply to John_Hat)
> [...]
>
> Is that right? I thought a lot of the high level waste was full of heavy elements like Uranium and Plutonium etc all of which are many times heavier than water?

It's not the actual radioactive isotopes themselves that have to be disposed of. A lot of the concrete shrouding the most active areas where waste is stored was made using galena (lead ore) as aggregate. The density of the stuff buggered up conventional concrete and formwork loading calculations! There there are the lead sheet linings to some of the active waste ponds that are now contaminated. And that's after someone has devised a safe method of actually dismantling the structures.

I know a little bit of what had to be done to decommission one of the old Windscale atomic piles (the big iconic Sellafield chimneys). The one that was demolished was used as a trial / evaluation project before tackling the one that had the 1950's fire in it. That one is still standing as some areas are still too 'hot' to work on.

Sadly we can't uninvent the nuclear industry -- and whilst vast strides have been made in finding ways to deal with the legacy, it will be many decades before the perfect solution for disposal and storage of the waste. In the meantime we as a nation need to be proactive and do something. Whilst doing nothing might be politically expedient - and certainly cost less in the short term - committing to do something is not a decision that we can duck indefinitely.

Philip on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to Philip)
> [...]
>
> A subduction zone and a volcano aren't the same you know?
>
>
> Chris
>
> ;-)
Yes, I knew that at 8. I think you're reading the wrong post. The subduction zones are out because they are unstable geology - the exact opposite of what is required for safe long term storage - which is what you would need as the process of taking it into the mantle will be on a geological timescale.
Richard J - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to John_Hat:
The UK's nuclear waste problem is particularly bad because the 1950s and 60s nuclear programme wasn't really a nuclear power programme, it was a nuclear weapons programme that produced electricity as a by-product. This dictated the design of the Magnox reactors, which caused the worst of the waste.

The problem isn't so much the volume of high level waste, it's the fact that so much of the very radioactive material is mixed up with all kinds of other stuff. It's a separation problem really. If you could solve the problem of separating out all the different elements, radioactive and otherwise, you'd be able to reduce the really problematic isotopes to manageable size. And if you could separate out the rhodium which fission products contain, you'd probably be able to pay for the whole process - it's a very valuable platinum group metal.
In reply to Philip:
> The subduction zones are out because they are unstable geology - the exact opposite of what is required for safe long term storage - which is what you would need as the process of taking it into the mantle will be on a geological timescale.

I'm not suggesting storing there, rather dumping because of the geological processes going on - radical I know. Once embedded in the sediment it should be carried down into the Earth at a few cm a year. Even if it got plastered onto the accretionary prism it would be out of circulation for millennia.

Chris

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