LIFETIME PREDICTIONS OF TOXIC AND RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL AND REMEDIATION SCHEMES

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Nuclear power production epitomizes the need for predictive geoscience (Ewing, 2004). Current global carbon emissions of {approx}7 Gt/y, largely from fossil fuel consumption, are expected to grow and result in a variety of adverse global effects, including acid rain, toxic smog, and hypothetically, sea level rise and increased frequency and severity of adverse weather conditions. One of the most reliable and sufficiently large alternative sources of energy is nuclear power, which currently provides about 17% of the world's electricity, equivalent to a reduction in carbon emissions of {approx}0.5 Gt/y. The U.S. currently consumes {approx}40% of the world's fossil fuel production, ... continued below

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Wesolowski, D.J.; Ewing, R.C. & Bruno, J. June 28, 2005.

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Description

Nuclear power production epitomizes the need for predictive geoscience (Ewing, 2004). Current global carbon emissions of {approx}7 Gt/y, largely from fossil fuel consumption, are expected to grow and result in a variety of adverse global effects, including acid rain, toxic smog, and hypothetically, sea level rise and increased frequency and severity of adverse weather conditions. One of the most reliable and sufficiently large alternative sources of energy is nuclear power, which currently provides about 17% of the world's electricity, equivalent to a reduction in carbon emissions of {approx}0.5 Gt/y. The U.S. currently consumes {approx}40% of the world's fossil fuel production, but generates only about 20% of it's electricity from nuclear plants. One major factor inhibiting increased power production form this source in the US. is the lack of a licensed repository for spent nuclear fuel, and Yucca Mountain is the only site being considered at this time. The licensing issue hinges on DOE's ability to present a credible case before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that releases of radionuclides from the repository will not pose a threat to the accessible environment. This case is being built using a performance assessment model that incorporates a thermochemical database (EQ3/6) fed by experiments and theoretical developments in aqueous geochemistry and fluid rock interactions, coupled reaction/transport models which combine both the chemical and physical aspects of fluid and heat transport through porous and fractured media, geohazard and climate change models, and information gleaned from natural analogs. The assessment period is currently 10,000 years, but this has recently been challenged in a court of law, and may be extended to 300,000 years or more. Yucca Mountain has a design capacity that only marginally exceeds the current U.S. inventory of commercial spent fuel, currently stored on site at power plants through the country. Some analysts suggest that in order to have a significant impact on global carbon emissions, worldwide nuclear and other carbon-free energy sources would have to increase tenfold by 2050. If this increase came entirely from electrical power plants using the once-through nuclear fuel cycle, about 3,500 new 1-GW plants would be needed, that would generate enough spent fuel to fill a Yucca Mountain-sized repository every year. Though this extreme scenario is not likely to unfold, it seems inevitable that we need this source of energy, if the public can be assured that the operation of these plants, and the disposal of the wastes generated from their operation, can be made acceptably safe. The Yucca Mountain field trip provided an excellent opportunity for a diverse cross section of engineers and geoscientists to gain a clearer perspective on the nature and problems related to this particular type of repository. The symposium not only brought together a similar broad cross section of scientists and engineers, but provided a forum for comparing and contrasting different repository designs being considered throughout the world, different methods of assessing their performance characteristics, and the surprisingly broad array of geochemical inputs needed in order to succeed in this Grand Challenge.

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  • Report No.: NA
  • Grant Number: NA
  • DOI: 10.2172/859181 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 859181
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc780220

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  • June 28, 2005

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  • Dec. 3, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

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  • Feb. 10, 2016, 5:40 p.m.

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Wesolowski, D.J.; Ewing, R.C. & Bruno, J. LIFETIME PREDICTIONS OF TOXIC AND RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL AND REMEDIATION SCHEMES, report, June 28, 2005; Las Vegas, Nevada. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc780220/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.