A March 14 letter from a person with aerospace industry knowledge suggested that reprocessing nuclear waste is as doable as recycling. However, the experts on nuclear power at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) contradict both the details and conclusions of that letter in a paper titled, “Nuclear Reprocessing: Dangerous, Dirty, and Expensive”.
UCS points out that the isotopes of plutonium that would be separated out are not highly radioactive. This makes it vulnerable to theft. In its powdery form, this material can be used by terrorists to create “dirty” nuclear explosions, capable of contaminating a large urban area.
The largest component of the remaining material is uranium, which is highly radioactive and is undesirable for reuse in reactors. Long-term storage is still required.
The Energy Department estimates that two large reprocessing plants would need to be built to take care of high-level wastes already in storage, plus that being created every day—at a cost of $40 billion. The American public would end up having to pay this charge.
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Storage of highly radioactive wastes in dry casks is the best option. Meanwhile, California is doing a superb job of increasing sources of sustainable energy, so that soon we can stop producing this ultimate pollution of our planet.