Nuclear "Recycling" is really Reprocessing

the dirtiest technology ever invented: dropping irradiated nuclear fuel rods into acids to extract unfissioned plutonium and uranium

comments submitted to the Department of Energy's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership public hearing in Hood River Oregon, Monday, March 26, 2007:

Mark Robinowitz
Box 51222
Eugene Oregon 97405

120 seconds is not enough time to have a democratic input. I formally demand that the scoping process hold public hearings in Seattle and Portland and all other communities that would host transportation facilities used for this nuclear waste transport - ports, highways, trains. The EIS needs to be expanded to include the cumulative impact of this "mobile Chernobyl," and the amount of energy input it would require in the fuel cycle.

Nuclear reprocessing involves dropping ultra-hazardous irradiated fuel roads that are lethal in about a minute's exposure into vats of nitric acid, resulting in a noxious brew that is the most poisonous material ever invented. Radioactivity is incompatible with creatures using DNA. Transmutation is not a proven technology and even if partially worked it would still create vast new amounts of radioactive wastes that would still be hazardous for many centuries. Splitting transuranics into fission products still would leave us with a small ocean of nuclear excretion that our great great great great great grandchildren will still have to babysit. ALL reactors synthesize plutonium and many other radioactive isotopes.

Reprocessing technology was banned during the Ford administration due to concerns about proliferation of plutonium - the raw ingredient for nuclear weapons.

Dr. John Gofman, who was assistant director of the DOE's Livermore Lab during the 1960s, says that “at least several hundred scientists trained in the biomedical aspect of atomic energy—myself definitely included--are candidates for Nuremberg-type trials for crimes against humanity through our gross negligence and irresponsibility. Now that we know the hazard of low-dose radiation, the crime is not experimentation--it's murder."

In 1975, the "Barton Report" commissioned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on "Intensified Nuclear Safeguards and Civil Liberties" stated that during nuclear emergencies might involve suspension of normal civil liberties including torture, and that "the normal deterrent to such practices would be ineffective under the conditions of a nuclear emergency."

Oil and nuclear power have virtually nothing in common. Oil runs transportation, not electricity.

In Hillsboro, downstream of here, the country's largest solar panel factory is being installed -- that is safe nuclear power (with a 93 million mile evacuation zone).

Solar and wind power do not poison farmland downwind. They do not make the ingredients for weapons of mass destruction. They do not require a police state to safeguard the materials. If we have any sense, this will be the emphasis of our energy future. If this process is so safe, then the Price Anderson Act -- which prevents liability for nuclear contamination -- would be removed from this facility. If nuclear power made sense, it would not be subsidized and held immune from liability. if full cost of nuclear fuel cycle, risks, health consequences, genetic damage, babysitting the waste for millennia - we would never have done this -- it would have been cheaper to make dynamite instead of nuclear bombs. Relocalizing production to avoid unnecessary long distance transportation is a more practical way to cope with the energy crisis, especially since nuclear fuel processing requires enormous fossil energy inputs.



Nuclear propaganda talking points posted to blogs

June 10, 2008
10:34 p.m.

boyder writes:

Used nuclear fuel in Europe is recycled and reused in nuclear plants till it only has a half life of 20 to 50 years. The only reason we don't do it in the US is because a law was passed under Jimmy Carter that makes it illegal for us now to recycle nuclear fuel after one cycle because they thought it would be too dangerous at the time. Goes to show that the term 'progressive' doesn't always stand for progress.


Comments in response (to correct this disinformation)

1. The ban on nuclear reprocessing was enacted by the Ford administration after India detonated its first nuclear bomb in 1974 (a weapon developed through an ostensibly peaceful nuclear program).

2. This rhetoric makes it seem that long lived radioactive waste becomes short lived waste after reprocessing. In reality, the long lived wastes remain long lived even after the uranium and plutonium is extracted from the so-called spent fuel.

3. Europe is not reprocessing nuclear fuel on any substantive scale, since the technology is the most toxic on the planet and there is still ample supplies of uranium (although this will not last more than a few more decades).



When Recycling Isn’t: Lessons from a Nuclear Industry Conference

Saturday, May 10 2008

Nuclear power opponents argue that the radioactive waste generated raises serious environmental, health and safety issues, and the United States still hasn’t figured out how to handle the waste from existing plants. At the NEI meeting, there was no “waste,” only “spent fuel.” And the answer to the storage issue is “recycling” — not reprocessing — spent fuel to obtain material that can again be used to fuel reactors.

When Recycling Isn’t: Lessons from a Nuclear Industry Conference

By Diane Farsetta
May 10, 2008
PR Watch

I learned many things at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI’s) annual meeting, but perhaps none more surprising than this: When nuclear power executives discuss the state of their industry, they highlight many of the same issues as their environmentalist opponents.Of course, the emphasis and even the language are different. But presenters at the “Nuclear Energy Assembly,” held in Chicago from May 5 to 7, discussed financing for new nuclear plants, nuclear waste storage and nuclear weapons proliferation concerns.

Nuclear power opponents argue that the industry shouldn’t expect or need government support, some fifty years into its existence. In a hotel conference room populated mostly with gray-suited older white men, industry executives repeatedly called for an expansion of federal loan guarantees for new nuclear plants.

Early on in the conference, NEI president and CEO Frank L. “Skip” Bowman said, “We use loan guarantees in this country to support ship building, steel making, student loans, rural electrification, affordable housing, construction of critical transportation infrastructure, and for many other purposes. Please don’t tell me that America’s electric infrastructure is any less important.” He added, “I wish someone would tell me when the word ’subsidy’ became a slur, a four-letter word. … What is there of value in American life that is not subsidized, to some extent?”

Nuclear power opponents argue that the radioactive waste generated raises serious environmental, health and safety issues, and the United States still hasn’t figured out how to handle the waste from existing plants. At the NEI meeting, there was no “waste,” only “spent fuel.” And the answer to the storage issue is “recycling” — not reprocessing — spent fuel to obtain material that can again be used to fuel reactors.

“You still have a challenge of what to do with used fuel,” admitted Craig T. Smith, a principal at the polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland. “Recycling is a message that resonates with people. … From a messaging perspective, it resonates with audiences that don’t necessarily support, or are somewhat agnostic, with nuclear power.”

Furthering the CASE

For me, Smith’s talk was easily the highlight of the conference. His firm (which was co-founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign pollster, Mark Penn) has worked for nuclear industry for “several years,” to “shape the image of nuclear power in the public policy marketplace,” as Smith described it.

“Many of you may have heard of our firm because of the political work we do — Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, [Silvio] Berlusconi, Michael Bloomberg,” Smith explained at the beginning of his presentation. “But actually, 80 percent of the work we do is for corporations, and help position them … not their products, but their image, their ideas, and what they’re trying to do.”

For the nuclear industry, much of that positioning has been accomplished via the “Clean and Safe Energy Coalition,” or CASEnergy. That’s the NEI-funded front group chaired by Greenpeace activist turned industry consultant Patrick Moore and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chair turned industry consultant Christine Todd Whitman. As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, journalists are all too willing to accept Moore’s and Whitman’s self-description as environmentalists who just happen to support nuclear power, without asking or disclosing to news audiences who signs their paychecks.

Craig Smith addresses the audienceWhile Hill & Knowlton handles the PR work for NEI / CASEnergy, the polling is done by Penn, Schoen & Berland. “Part of what I do is I work with an organization called CASEnergy,” Smith said. “What we have done at CASEnergy is we’ve gone out and recruited opinion leaders around the country, who are supportive of nuclear power and ready to talk to people about that, to write letters to the editor. … CASE goes to [nuclear plant] relicensing hearings, and … provides a presence there. We have materials that we get out. We’ve done a lot of work in Illinois and Michigan and Florida and Iowa and New Hampshire, and we’re going to be working in some additional states as we try to raise the public profile of nuclear power.”

Smith patted himself and NEI / CASEnergy on the back, for successfully “positioning” nuclear power as an energy source that doesn’t significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Future CASEnergy talking points will focus on the benefits of used fuel “recycling” and the jobs created by building new nuclear power plants, he said.

Another Patrick Moore?

Craig Smith identified various groups who “need some additional convincing” about the benefits of nuclear power. These include women, people of color, young people, health care providers, environmentalists, people who live in cities and those who live in the Midwest.

Not surprisingly, these are the groups that CASEnergy is now focusing on winning over. While he didn’t speak at the conference, Patrick Moore was in Chicago during the event, meeting with the editorial board of the respected African-American newspaper the Chicago Defender.

The speaker following Smith, Gwyneth Cravens, meets some of the nuclear industry’s desired outreach demographics. She identifies as an environmentalist and former opponent of nuclear power, a mother, an organic gardener and a yoga enthusiast. She credits an acquaintance who worked on nuclear risk assessment issues with her gradual conversion into a supporter of nuclear energy, a process detailed in her book “Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy.”

Is Cravens following in Patrick Moore’s and Christie Whitman’s footsteps? Only time will tell. If that’s the plan, Cravens needs a little more PR coaching. Her stated commitment to environmentalism and her exhortations to avoid an “us versus them” mentality rang a little hollow, when — during the same speech — she referred to environmentalists as “anti’s” and “tree huggers.”

Much of the rhetoric at the NEI conference was similar; it sounded good, until you listened more closely. To the industry executives gathered, issues like nuclear waste and the considerable price tag of and lack of private investment in new plants are challenges, not to be overcome so much as “repositioned” with poll-driven spin and managed via state and federal lobbying campaigns. This approach has been disturbingly successful to date. With not just our energy policy but also our environmental well-being on the line, hopefully legislators and journalists will start listening more closely and asking more questions.

Diane Farsetta is the Center for Media and Democracy’s senior researcher.