Wednesday, 23 May 2007

To be honest...

I'm not certain whether it was a mistake or (I certainly hope not) deliberate, but in a recent speach reported by the ABC, Dr. Switkowski is quoted as saying the following:
Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter has previously said the state could become a dumping ground for the world's nuclear waste if uranium mining was permitted in WA.

However, Dr Switkowski has told a forum of business people and academics in Perth the fears are a farce.

"I'm not aware of any country that has accepted that logic, quite the reverse," he said.

"As we've travelled around the world, we tried to find a country that would accept radioactive waste from industries in another country and there is none."

Pssst... excuse me Dr. Switkowski, but didn't ANSTO recently ship some spent fuel from HIFAR back to the UK, France and the USA? I understand the UK and French shipments were for reprocessing (with subsequent intermediate level waste to be returned to Australia - at least of the fuel supplied from the UK), but I believe fuel bound for the USA (without fuel processing capability) is destined for disposal there as part of their fuel take-back programme. Why did it go back to the USA? Again, my understanding is because it was enriched in the USA. Also if one does a search on highly enriched uranium (HEU) take-back programmes you will see that both the US and Russia, through their RRRFR programme are very interested in repatriating both fresh and spent fuel with several shipments completed to date [a VERY good thing].

Anyway, the claim above certainly seems incorrect to me. Maybe I'm missing something.

From the UIC website:

Used Fuel

HIFAR's fuel was fabricated in the USA and the UK. In line with recommendations from several government inquiries, the used fuel has been sent overseas for either disposal or reprocessing, depending on the country of origin of the fuel. In 1963 and 1996, ANSTO shipped a total of 264 used fuel elements to the UK. In 1998, 240 were sent to the USA. A total of 1288 used fuel elements were sent to France for reprocessing in four shipments between 1999 and 2004. In 2006 a second shipment of 330 used fuel elements was sent to the USA. This left some 130 HIFAR used fuel elements destined for the USA.

HIFAR used fuel elements are stored on site and were accumulating at the rate of 38 per year. A sum of $88 million (1997 dollars) has been allocated for reprocessing UK-origin used fuel in Europe and shipping US-origin used fuel to the USA.

UK reprocessing was under a 1967 fuel purchase agreement, and the separated uranium was used in the UK for offsetting against ANSTO fuel purchases. The wastes from the reprocessing of the used fuel sent in the 1996 shipment will be held there for up to 25 years and then returned to Australia. It is classified as intermediate-level waste.

Spent fuel

U-Al fuels can be reprocessed by Cogema in France, and U-Mo fuels may also be reprocessed there. U-Si and TRIGA fuels are not readily reprocessed in conventional facilities. However, at least one commercial operator has confirmed that U-Si fuels may be reprocessed in existing plants if diluted with appropriate quantities of other fuels, such as U-Al.

To answer concerns about interim storage of spent research fuel around the world, the USA launched a program to take back US-origin spent fuel for disposal and nearly half a tonne of U-235 from such HEU fuel has been returned. By the time the program was to end with fuel discharged in 2006, U-Mo fuel was expected to be available. Due to the slippage in target date, the US take-back program has now been extended by ten years.

Disposal of high-enriched or even 20% enriched fuel needs to address problems of criticality and requires the use of neutron absorbers or diluting or spreading it out in some way.

In Russia, a parallel trilateral program involving IAEA and the USA is intended to move 2 tonnes of HEU and 2.5 tonnes of LEU spent fuel to the Mayak reprocessing complex near Chelyabinsk over the ten years to 2012. This Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Program (RRR FRT) envisages 38 shipments (of both fresh and spent fuel) from ten countries over 2005-08, then 8+ shipments from six countries to remove all HEU fuel discharged before reactors converted to LEU or shut down. Seventeen countries have Soviet-supplied research reactors, and there are 25 such reactors outside Russia, 15 of them still operational. Since Libya joined the program in 2004, only North Korea objects to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment