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Power United States Technology

10% of US Energy Derived From Old Soviet Nukes 213

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-the-peak-nukes-problem dept.
Nrbelex writes "The New York Times reports that about 10 percent of electricity generated in the United States comes from fuel from dismantled nuclear bombs, mostly Russian. 'It's a great, easy source' of fuel, said Marina V. Alekseyenkova, an analyst at Renaissance Bank and an expert in the Russian nuclear industry that has profited from the arrangement since the end of the cold war. But if more diluted weapons-grade uranium isn't secured soon, the pipeline could run dry, with ramifications for consumers, as well as some American utilities and their Russian suppliers.'"
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10% of US Energy Derived From Old Soviet Nukes

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  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@G m a i l.com> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:04PM (#30047554) Homepage Journal

    ... if we'd use common sense and recycle the fuel, as many other nuclear nations already do. The whole terrorist argument against this was bogus from the start. Recycle the damn fuel, and you can reuse 93 percent of it.

  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:14PM (#30047732) Journal

    The real waste is the dismantling of the launch vehicles (from both countries). We all spent billions developing reliable launch technologies and it breaks my heart to see them crushing perfectly good missiles.

  • by Dare nMc (468959) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:18PM (#30047798)

    what a great idea, wonder why no one has thought of that? could it be that the price of power would have to triple to make it affordable?
    would have to increase to nearly $165 per pound in 1981 dollars before the breeder would become financially competitive [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Gotta wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kestasjk (933987) * on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:20PM (#30047840) Homepage
    Highly enriched nuclear bomb materials are like the old surface oil wells, or gold nuggets lying in the Australian desert, way too easy to pass up. Doesn't mean there aren't stupendous reserves yet to be mined.
  • We should do more (Score:4, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxrubyNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:27PM (#30047982)

    If anything we should increase the amount of energy created by using nuclear fuel in this country. Every form of 'green' power has some kind of drawback that makes it less than ideal, hyrdo affects fish, solar requires nasty chemicals, geothermal is accused of causing earthquakes, wind power kills birds and so on. Point being if we're going to have widespread energy production it needs to be done on a feasible basis that responds to economy of scale. I'd love to have solar panels for my house (and will probably have them within a couple years), but that doesn't mean where I live is a good location for building solar power plants.

    The biggest obstacle keeping us from using the greenest energy source we have is the pushback from groups like greenpeace. Ever notice that greenpeace never actually does research or other work to make the world a greener place? The research they do is politically motivated and centered around preventing others from doing things they are politically intolerant of. When's the last time you read a press release from greenpeace about a new technological development they made? If groups such as greenpeace were actually serious about the environment they would be all over themselves in doing everything they could in order to increase the use of nuclear energy.

    The fact that the government feels it had to keep this story below the radar in the first place shows how much damage these groups have done to nuclear power. It's time for greenpeace to stand up, do the right thing, and make amends for decades of harm to the environment they have caused. They are no better than some of the old factories that dumped chemicals into rivers.

  • by beatsme (1472991) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:32PM (#30048074)
    Also: the well won't run dry if we continue to dismantle warheads. The article mentions that we've been milking these same "few thousand" warheads since the end of the Cold War. Considering that we have between the US and Russia close to TWENTY thousand warheads, if we take even 20% of that collectively, that'd be enough for another 15-20 years. By which time one would think we'd have gotten our act together on these other more renewable resources.
  • by godztempus (1081497) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:53PM (#30048466)
    Well, the making of nukes falls under a large defense budget, but to refine the fuel under the utility budget makes it more expensive.
  • Re:Gotta wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JSBiff (87824) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @01:57PM (#30048546) Journal

    "Reprocessing can last us for a time but it requires more infrastructure and time to put in place."

    The various estimates I've seen indicate that Reprocessing can last us a *very long* time (hundreds of years, possibly thousands of years). In the meantime, we should be working on solar (both terrestrial and space), wind, etc, and Fusion. Once we can make the leap to fusion, we don't really need any more Uranium (or only relatively small quantities) - fusion just needs water, and most countries on Earth have access to large supplies of water (of course, there are some land-locked semi-arid nations without access to much water, but you don't even really need *much* water for fusion, just some). The water doesn't even need to be fresh water, I believe - places like Israel, Palestine, Southern California, where fresh water is in short supply, still have access to lots of salt water from the Mediterranean (or other Seas/Oceans, for other countries in similar situations).

    Heck, once we've unlocked fusion, you could potentially create Fusion-powered desalination plants that could solve the fresh water crises in lots of places like that - instead of using the energy to create electricity, use it to desalinate ocean water; or maybe do both simultaneously (could you create an efficient electric plant, I wonder, which uses the heat energy to boil off water from salt water, generating fresh steam, run the fresh steam through your electric turbines, condense the steam into fresh water, and pump that fresh water out of the electric plant into a water treatment plant for clorination, softening, etc)?

  • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:08PM (#30048728)

    I'm a big supporter of nuclear power but to be fair Nuclear power kills fish too nearly any way you wing it. Those puppies need water cooling so most are built near large bodies of water. Even if they cool their water properly (cooling towers or canals) so that they don't mess the fish up by raising the temperature of the body of water at all there's no getting around the fact that those intake pipes are going to suck in some fish and other larger animals can often get stuck on the mesh.

    I know one plant was required to build a "slide for life" to get some of the fish out of the intake. Got the fish out all-right, but their fate wasn't much delayed. The birds on the other hand, thought it was the best fucking invention ever.

  • Re:Unlimited Power (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chrysrobyn (106763) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:10PM (#30048766)

    And how cheap is this ex-Soviet fuel, while it lasts? Shouldn't we count the cost to get them, which includes $TRILLIONS on the Cold War?

    In economic terms, that's a sunk or opportunity cost. Those trillions have been paid. Whether we decide to use the material or knowledge or not doesn't change the amount of money put in, and the incremental cost of actually using that is all that we should continue to worry about.

    If we can take all those trillions and turn them into something good, why not do it? Ignoring the inherent benefit of breeder reactor, or fuel recycling, what do you think should be done with all that material? Bury it in the ground because it's bad? Or maybe spend it and offset the amount of radiation we're introducing into the atmosphere (from coal)?

    I want to see every coal plant in the world shut down and recycled. I think a combination of nuclear, solar (photovoltaic and thermal) and wind can do the job just as well, while costing the same or even less.

  • by twistedsymphony (956982) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:22PM (#30048964) Homepage

    Considering that we have between the US and Russia close to TWENTY thousand warheads, if we take even 20% of that collectively, that'd be enough for another 15-20 years. By which time one would think we'd have gotten our act together on these other more renewable resources.

    sounds quite optimistic to me.

  • by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:26PM (#30049026)
    Quietly engaging in what? Buying up all of our debt so that our government can continue to spend like crazy? Fixing their currency to ours so that their goods are even cheaper for US consumers? Spending 100-150 billion dollars per year on defense while the US spends something on the order of $1 trillion per year (includes general military budget + wars)?

    Call me crazy, but I don't think this is a new cold war. And even if it were, the US (and others) has the capability of killing every last man, woman, and child on the planet with nuclear weapons. I'm more concerned with local gangs than with China.
  • by Zordak (123132) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @02:49PM (#30049376) Homepage Journal

    FTFA "But if more diluted weapons-grade uranium isn't secured soon, the pipeline could run dry, with ramifications for consumers, as well as some American utilities and their Russian suppliers."

    Gotta end sometime, but was fun while it lasted

    Yeah, too bad we can't, you know, mine the stuff or something.

  • by ndik (1186119) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @10:59PM (#30055476)
    or import it from us Aussies.

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