Archive for April 19, 2011
Iowa's Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Problem
by Paul Deaton
A topic related to nuclear power has been inadequately covered during Iowa's debate over HF 561/SF 390 and new nuclear reactors. It is the issue of what to do with one of the outputs of a nuclear reactor, “spent nuclear fuel.”
According to a General Accounting Office report in 2003,
According to the Associated Press, Iowa has 465 tons of spent nuclear fuel and presumably it is all stored at Duane Arnold, our sole nuclear power plant. 345 tons of it is stored in cooling pools and 120 tons is in dry cask storage according to the story. Once spent nuclear fuel cools, it is transferred to dry cask storage which also serves as a transportation container should it ever be moved.
Iowa's Duane Arnold Energy Center has been a quiet place during the time since it began commercial operation in 1975. There is no reason to believe that NextEra Energy, the company that owns the facility, has done anything but a reasonable job of managing their spent nuclear fuel according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rules and regulations. The plant was re-licensed by the NRC in December 2010 for an additional 20 years and the amount of spent nuclear fuel will continue to grow. There is a problem.
If the lifespan of a nuclear reactor is 60 years, as the Duane Arnold situation suggests (40 under original licensing plus 20 in re-licensing), then what revenue will help pay for storage of the spent nuclear fuel after the reactor reaches its expected lifespan? There isn't any. That is why the costs of decommissioning a nuclear plant are to be built into the current rate structures. Duane Arnold may be no better or worse than other licensed US nuclear reactors in accruing this expense, but the cost of security and management of the spent nuclear fuel for thousands of years is unfathomable.
There are those that say the federal government should subsidize storage of spent nuclear fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy has title to spent nuclear fuel and has yet to locate a repository for it. There was discussion about Yucca Mountain as a potential federal storage area, but the proposed site did not meet the technical requirements for storing spent nuclear fuel for thousands of years. [Editor's note: Some readers take issue with this statement and you are referred to the comment thread for the entire discussion]. That discussion is over and spent fuel sits at Duane Arnold and other nuclear power plants, waiting for Washington. It is an unsolved problem that creates an inter-generational liability and expense. Whether a person believes in federal subsidies or not, this federal subsidy of nuclear power generation will not be going away.
There is no hurry to move HF 561/SF 390 to give MidAmerican Energy an advantage in building a new nuclear reactor in Iowa until all of the costs, liabilities and alternatives are understood.
~Paul Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul Deaton
GOP 2012: Let Us Get Rid Of Medicare, Social Security And Public Schools For You!
by Dave Bradley
Well, the Republican Party that once stood proudly as the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower will now take this body of work to the voting public next year for its approval:
1) We promise to destroy Medicare as you know it. Eventually we will destroy Medicare altogether. Buy insurance from our contributors or die.
2) We still plan to end Social Security. We will hook you up with a Wall Street betting account. Good luck.
3) Ending taxes for the rich is still our top priority. Make no doubt about that. If you make a million bucks a year, we got your back. Others need not apply.
4) We also plan to kill unions of all stripes by creating laws that make them impossible to organize or fund. Without unions and with outsourcing, American labor will be really cheap for business in the coming years. We really don’t care about jobs, just keeping labor costs low. Speaking of low cost labor – what do you think desperate 67 year olds will work for?
5) We want to put health care decisions back where they belong – in the hands of the insurance companies.
6) One group that should not be allowed to make their own medical decisions is women. They are the breeding material. After that, what good are they?
7) We intend to privatize everything that governments do today.
- Roads and bridges.
- You name it we’ll privatize it.
8) We will continue to work hard to separate Americans into groups such as ethnic groups, religious groups and of course a special category for gays.
9) What the generals want, the generals get. No price is too high. Enlisted folks however are another story.
10) And don’t forget, we love God and Jesus.
I am sure most of you can come up with many more things to add to the list.
Yesterday I heard a term that seems to capture what the Republicans stand for. “Dollar voices” – the rich have very loud “Dollar Voices.” Well, if we can get ourselves together, we may not have louder “dollar voices” but we will have much louder and many times more real voices.
BTW, a thought crossed my mind this weekend. Remember how Republicans are always talking about states or districts being “laboratories of democracy” when there is a policy they want to stymie? The glaring example is their rhetoric on health care.
May I humbly suggest that we do that with Paul (serious) Ryan’s proposed budget in his district. Let us apply his suggestions (and others from his party) in his district. We can begin with Medicare vouchers for the elderly in his district. Then let’s cut back on Social Security. Next, let’s stop all that big gummint spending in his district, stop building and repairing them roads. Who needs the Post Office, let Fed Ex or UPS carry their mail. Let’s stop meat inspections. Surely there are many more gummint programs that can be slashed.
And it should be done soon, maybe by May 1, so we can assess the effects by next year.
E-mail Dave here
Dave Bradley is a self-described
retired observer of American politics “trying to figure out how we got
so screwed up.” An
Iowa City native currently living in West Liberty, Dave and his wife
Carol have two grown children who “sadly had to leave the state to find
decent paying jobs.“