atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#2655: Just recycle it

Spent nuclear fuel is not actually "spent" in the sense that it's forever unusuable for use in a nuclear reactor.

All right: when you've got a pound of coal or a gallon of gasoline, and you burn that, it's spent; it's gone. All of its latent chemical energy has been converted into other forms and its entropy has irreversibly increased.

When you've got a pound of nuclear fuel, however....

We stop using nuclear fuel after a certain amount of time only because of the buildup of certain isotopes which are quite literally called "poisons", because they poison the chain reaction that makes heat to boil water to make steam to drive the turbines that turn generators, thus liberating countless kajillions of electrons to do our bidding. But for these poisons, these fuel rods could stay in the reactor ad infinitum.

In a sane world, the fuel elements could be chemically processed to remove these poisons, and put back into service. The poisons would still have to be stored, but they'd take up very little space compared with entire fuel assemblies.

But we're not allowed to do that.

No: in the United States--up until about 2006--there was an Executive Order (from Jimmy Carter) and a federal law, both of which prohibited the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The theory goes that if you reprocess spent nuclear fuel, one of the things you end up with is plutonium, which can be used to make bombs, yada-yada, what if terrorists got ahold of it, blah blah blah, etcetera.

Trust me: you don't want to get near plutonium that's come from a commercial light water reactor. The plutonium used to make bombs comes from breeder reactors, and it comes from uranium that's been in the reactor less than about 30 days. Pu-239 is relatively docile stuff, being primarily an alpha emitter; but when you leave fuel in the reactor longer than about a month, you start getting an increasing concentration of Pu-240, which is a beta emitter with a shorter half-life than Pu-239. Besides that, it's got some other characteristics which make it rather undesirable for making bombs. Okay, Wikipedia!
Plutonium-240 has a high rate of spontaneous fission, raising the neutron flux of any sample it is in. The presence of plutonium-240 limits a sample's usability for weapons or reactor fuel, and determines its grade.
Pu-240 emits neutrons, and neutrons are bad for you.

You wouldn't need a search warrant to find nuclear terrorists who stole Pu-240; they'd glow in the dark. They also wouldn't move much, being dead and all.

So the illegality of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel is based on a false premise (that reprocessing spent fuel from commercial light water reactors causes "nuclear proliferation") and Bush wisely rescinded Carter's stupid EO; and the GOP-led Congress repealed the law that made processing illegal.

2006 was too late. Carter's edict was issued in 1978, as I recall; 28 years later the industrial capacity for reprocessing spent fuel has long since been extinct. We'd have to build new plants to do it.

But in this country, chock-full of eco-nazis and NIMBYs? Heh. Just try to build a plant for reprocessing spent fuel. I'm going to stand over here, where there's a good view, so I can point and laugh.

Nuclear power represents the cleanest, safest, and cheapest source of energy when we are allowed to use it correctly. The problem is, we've never been able to do that. The guys selling fossil fuels are partly to blame, because they knew that nuclear power would make paupers of them and hired lobbyists to make sure that never happened; but they're not the only guilty parties. The eco-nazis hate nuclear power because it also represents a way for humans to have clean, cheap electricity--and "too much industry" is a major bugaboo for eco-nazis, regardless of how clean it might be.


* * *

Iran's building nuclear bombs. You can tell me I'm wrong but there's no way in hell I'm going to believe that Iran wants nuclear power "for peaceful purposes" solely because the Iranian government says so.

* * *

Doug Powers on AP editing the story to remove Obama's "trade in your gas-guzzler if you can't afford gasoline!" bullshit.

* * *

Midwest Chick posts about a recent Illinois Supreme Court case.

Short form: guy from Indiana who has a concealed-carry permit accidentally brought a gun into Illinois. There is some disagreement on whether or not the gun was unloaded, but it was in a closed armrest compartment in his car.

The guy was charged with a felony for having a gun without a FOID card, and also was charged for not having the gun in a suitable case. He was found guilty of both charges at the circuit and appellate level.

Here's the thing:

The FOID card statute specifically says that if you come from out-of-state and are licensed to own a gun there, you may bring your gun into Illinois as long as it's in a proper case. The guy was charged under a different statute; so you have two laws with differing rules: one law says that you're fine as long as you're legal in your home state; the other says you're committing a felony unless you have a FOID card (which, unless I'm mistaken, can only be issued to Illinois residents anyway).

The nice thing is, the ISC reversed the verdicts. The "FOID card" thing was just stupid; and the "case" issue was dealt with because the gun was in an enclosure and not immediately accessible. And apparently the center console (between the front seats) would be just as legal as one between the back seats, according to the decision.

This is, at least, a step in the right direction. Maybe someday Illinois can join the rest of the country in allowing people to exercise their civil rights.

* * *

Yesterday, I woke up in a way that I have only ever awakened once before.

Consciousness returned slowly to me. A dream ended, and I could feel bits of my brain "switch on" as I woke up. Finally, after a few moments of this graceful power-on procedure, I was fully awake.

Usually I wake up in the middle of a dream. The waking process is abrupt and unpleasant, and it leaves me feeling cruddy. This time it was just like falling asleep, only in reverse.

Why isn't it like that more often? I mean, I get that there are things like alarm clocks and retards with stupid-loud stereo systems, but the laws of probability seem to indicate that it would happen more often than twice in 44 years. WTF.

I'd bet that's how people who can wake up easily always wake up.

* * *

After a nap (from 11-ish until 4) I had a shower, and then went and got a McSkillet.

I needed that shower. I don't remember the last time I had one. The last shower I remember was Saturday night, and I admit (with a certain amount of dread) that it's possible that was the last time I bathed.


Well--when you're living alone and unemployed, there's just no need. And showers screw up my blood sugar (don't ask me how, but that's why I took the shower before getting breakfast) so I tend to try to schedule them before meals--unless I'm already suffering a reaction, in which case I skip the shower and eat.

The best part is, nobody cares.


Sleep let me put the student loan situation in perspective. Absolute worst case, I hand over most of my IRAs to them, and the problem goes away. It sucks to be me, but I don't have to worry about them taking my cars and computers and blab slab, and books and anime and everything else I own and auctioning it to satisfy the debt.

That's the worst case: I have less money in the bank.'s aggravating and annoying to be in this position, but I'm not totally boned--at least not yet--and hopefully I can get some legal assistance.

Not surprisingly, bankruptcy lawyers aren't interested in helping you when it's a problem with a student loan. The government has very carefully excused itself from the rules it makes everyone else follow; that's why I was panicking: they can take everything you own and leave you standing on the street in a barrel and there is no legal protection for you. No variety of bankruptcy will shelter you from them.

So I need to find someone who can help me with the legal aspect who will understand that there's no quick buck in it for him. Bankruptcy is pretty well cut-and-dried, and a lawyer can make good money on them without expending a lot of effort; but a situation like mine requires actual work and it's billed by the hour, so rather than spend 20 minutes reviewing work done by his secretary and then bill the client for $250 (or whatever) he actually has to talk to people and shuffle papers and review cases and-and-and.

He'll make perhaps $100 advising me on my situation; he can make $750 in the same amount of time processing bankruptcy filings. You do the math.

But all that has to wait for business hours, and it's not even 7 AM yet.

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