How green is nuclear power? in Nuclear Energy Posted May 21, 2009 · Report post So you have no answers for the deadly and toxic waste problems? Do you even care about it or will you just ignore it and hope other generations will deal and pay for the nuke-mess you are so strongly promoting? Or maybe you are just here to promote this book of yours... When considering a national energy policy, we should make the most informed decision possible. How is this achieved? By weighing up the costs, benefits, dangers and so on. As I have clearly pointed out to you, I believe the benefits of nuclear power (namely due to the lack of a viable alternative) outweigh the costs and dangers. However, your point is valid so we'll address it. In keeping with the numbers theme: Isnâ€™t the waste from nuclear reactors a huge problem? As we noted in the opening of this chapter, the volume of waste from nuclear reactors is relatively small. Whereas the ash from ten coal-fired power stations would have a mass of four million tons per year (having a volume of roughly 40 litres per person per year), the nuclear waste from Britainâ€™s ten nuclear power stations has a volume of just 0.84 litres per person per year â€“ think of that as a bottle of wine per person per year. Most of this waste is low-level waste. 7% is intermediate-level waste, and just 3% of it â€“ 25ml per year â€“ is high-level waste. The high-level waste is the really nasty stuff. Itâ€™s conventional to keep the high-level waste at the reactor for its first 40 years. It is stored in pools of water and cooled. After 40 years, the level of radioactivity has dropped 1000-fold. The level of radioactivity continues to fall; after 1000 years, the radioactivity of the high-level waste is about the same as that of uranium ore. Thus waste storage engineers need to make a plan to secure high-level waste for about 1000 years. Is this a difficult problem? 1000 years is certainly a long time compared with the lifetimes of governments and countries! But the volumes are so small, I feel nuclear waste is only a minor worry, compared with all the other forms of waste we are inflicting on future generations. At 25ml per year, a lifetimeâ€™s worth of high-level nuclear waste would amount to less than 2 litres. Even when we multiply by 60 million people, the lifetime volume of nuclear waste doesnâ€™t sound unmanageable: 105 000 cubic metres. Thatâ€™s the same volume as 35 olympic swimming pools. If this waste were put in a layer one metre deep, it would occupy just one tenth of a square kilometre. There are already plenty of places that are off-limits to humans. I may not trespass in your garden. Nor should you in mine. We are neither of us welcome in Balmoral. â€œKeep outâ€ signs are everywhere. Downing Street, Heathrow airport, military facilities, disused mines â€“ theyâ€™re all off limits. Is it impossible to imagine making another one-square-kilometre spot â€“ perhaps deep underground â€“ off limits for 1000 years? Compare this 25ml per year per person of high-level nuclear waste with the other traditional forms of waste we currently dump: municipal waste â€“ 517 kg per year per person; hazardous waste â€“ 83 kg per year per person. People sometimes compare possible new nuclear waste with the nuclear waste we already have to deal with, thanks to our existing old reactors. Here are the numbers for the UK. The projected volume of â€œhigher activity wastesâ€ up to 2120, following decommissioning of existing nuclear facilities, is 478 000m3. Of this volume, 2% (about 10000m3) will be the high level waste (1290m3) and spent fuel (8150m3) that together contain 92% of the activity. Building 10 new nuclear reactors (10GW) would add another 31 900m3 of spent fuel to this total. Thatâ€™s the same volume as ten swimming pools. And how much does this cost? The nuclear decommissioning authority has an annual budget of Â£2 billion for the next 25 years. The nuclear industry sold everyone in the UK 4 kWh/d for about 25 years, so the nuclear decommissioning authorityâ€™s cost is 2.3 p/kWh. Thatâ€™s a hefty subsidy â€“ though not, it must be said, as hefty as the subsidy currently given to offshore wind (7 p/kWh). You have been making a lot of assumptions about this book. You've suggested that it's pro-nuclear, and I have responded that it is simply pro-arithmetic. I have no agenda and neither does the author. We simply want to see Britain realise it's goal of sustainable energy independence. If you are interested in sustainable energy independence, then I recommend it. If you want to keep your head in the sand, then carry on. I think the next question we should ask is "How can we make private companies adhere to strict safety standards?" instead of a blanket refusal to consider what could of great benefit to a sustainable future.