Madi Hilly Profile picture
Jul 21, 2022 19 tweets 5 min read
MYTH: We don't have a solution to nuclear's "waste problem"

REALITY: Nuclear waste isn't a problem. In fact, it’s the best solution we have to meeting our energy needs while protecting the natural environment!

Here's what you need to know:
Nuclear waste concerns are overwhelmingly focused on “high-level waste”, which is almost entirely spent nuclear fuel.

Nuclear fuel is made up of metal tubes containing small pellets of uranium. These tubes are gathered into bundles for loading and unloading into the reactor. Image
After nuclear fuel has spent about five years in a reactor making energy, it's placed into a pool of water to cool off for another five years.

(Storage pool at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station) Image
After that, several bundles are placed inside concrete and steel "casks" and placed in rows next to the reactor.

(Dry cask storage at Palo Verde)

Because uranium is very energy dense, the amount of waste is relatively small.

All of the fuel rods ever used by the commercial nuclear industry since the late 1950s could fit on a single football field stacked about 50 feet high. Image
The best part: when the fuel rods are done in the reactor, over 90% of the potential energy from the uranium is still left in them!

That means we can recycle the spent fuel and turn it into new fuel, which is already routinely done in Europe, Russia, and Japan.
In summary, nuclear waste:
- is solid (not glowing green goo)
- is tiny compared to the waste from all other energy technologies
- is easily contained
- has a perfect safety record

Nuclear waste does have a problem, however...
...which is that policymakers and the public think that nuclear waste has a problem!

The prevailing belief is that nuclear waste is uniquely dangerous and that the industry doesn't know what to do with it.
Let's start with uniquely dangerous.

The main concern associated with spent nuclear fuel – radioactivity – diminishes with time.

About 40 years after it's done making power, the heat and radioactivity of the fuel bundle will have fallen by over 99%. Image
Most of the industrial waste we manage never gets less toxic over time.

Not in a million years. Not even in a billion.

Mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc. are all dangerous and remain so forever.

In rich countries, this waste is gathered up and stored without fanfare.
There’s nothing special about radiation that would prevent us from doing this with high-level waste.

The only difference is that high-level waste is much easier to detect and thus easier to monitor.
Rather than being honest and explaining that 1) radiation does not make nuclear waste uniquely dangerous and 2) dry cask storage at the plant is safe, cheap, and has a flawless record, the industry has attempted to offer technical solutions to what is a political problem.
Yucca Mountain is an anti-scientific dumpster fire, eating up public wealth.

It would save 0 lives, protect against 0 injuries, avoid 0 cancer, and give the false impression that nuclear waste is the most dangerous waste.

$15 billion flushed for no benefit. Image
Scientists and engineers abuse public trust when they pretend we must bury nuclear waste deep underground or put it in the middle of a desert.

Any "expert" who believes this is, at best, confused about the role of science and engineering in advising public policy.
So what to do about the true nuclear waste problem?

The Netherlands offers a compelling solution: encourage people to visit!

Their facility is open to the public, contains an educational museum, and is decorated with large-scale art installations.

The U.S industry gives off creepy vibes when it comes to waste.

People should be allowed to check it out for themselves! At worst, they'll be bored. At best, we can find a way to make it more interesting like the Dutch do.
I love getting asked about the waste. I never get tired of seeing people relax when they hear me explain it.

I think the impatience with the question is what has led the industry and advocates to support ill-advised, "technical" fixes for problems of trust and openness.
Glad to be hearing from so many of you in response to this thread!

If you like what you read here, there’s a lot more coming and I would definitely appreciate your support.…
Decided to do a follow-up on the physics and culture of nuclear waste 👇🏼

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More from @MadiHilly

Jan 25
France’s nuclear fleet is failing at a time when Europe most desperately needs reliable power.

Some point to this as evidence that nuclear in France is old and unreliable.

The truth is, France worked very hard to achieve this collapse 🧵…
Police clashes with activists have put a light on Germany’s coal addiction. In 2022:

- More fossil fuels were used for electricity than any year since 2018
- Hard coal consumption for electricity was up 16% from 2021
- €500 billion was set aside to secure coal, oil, & gas "Police officers scuffle with activists during a protes
Germany has been lionized as a climate leader for investing €500 billion through 2025 in its energy transition.

Yet its neighbor France has had electricity roughly 10x cleaner at nearly half the cost, thanks to the nuclear fleet it built in response to the 70s energy crises. A comparison of the carbon-intensity of electricity generate
Read 16 tweets
Jan 11
It’s disappointing to see @PeterZeihan pull the same old ‘I’m pro-nuclear BUT’ schtick on Joe Rogan.

Let’s put these anti-nuclear myths to bed and clear the record:

Myth #1: Nuclear is too slow

“We don’t have that kind of time, honestly”

On the contrary: nuclear power is proven to be one of the fastest ways to scale up clean energy for deep decarbonization. Top 40 deployments of low-carbon generation. Courtesy of Gra
Hydro and geothermal are constrained by geography & geology — not many places have the hydro resources (or low pops.) of the Nordic countries.

Zeihan acknowledges this in his latest book: “Hydropower has already used all available appropriate geographies globally.”
Read 14 tweets
Dec 28, 2022
"plus batteries" is doing a lot of work here

Here's a rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation of storage for the EU's energy needs met by "solar plus batteries"👇
In 2021, EU electricity consumption was 2,865 TWh.

Solar generation in Europe varies greatly throughout the year.

If solar provided all EU electricity, the winter deficit (worst 6 months of solar generation) would have been about 590 TWh, or just above 20% of yearly demand. Net monthly electricity generation from solar (GWh)  Source:
So *at minimum* 20% of yearly demand would need to be stored in the summer for use in the winter.

That's $277 trillion USD based on the DOE's estimates for lithium ion battery facility costs ($469/kWh)

If you use the DOE's estimate for 2025 costs ($362/kWh), it's $213 trillion.
Read 7 tweets
Aug 10, 2022

Chernobyl the accident shows that, even in a worst-case scenario, the health and environmental risks of nuclear are small.

Chernobyl the cultural phenomenon shows how dangerous nuclear can be.

Here’s what you need to know:
Late at night on April 25, 1986, the reactor crew at Chernobyl 4 disabled the system’s automatic safety mechanisms and simulated an emergency to see what would happen to the plant’s safety in an emergency.

An hour after midnight, about 1 AM on April 26, things went wrong.
The test resulted in a massive surge of power, followed almost immediately by a steam explosion and, a few seconds later, a second explosion caused by what experts now believe was the ignition of flammable hydrogen gas.
Read 25 tweets
Jul 28, 2022
My thread on nuclear waste seems to have touched a nerve!

Interestingly, most pushback has come from INSIDE the nuclear industry, not outside.

A follow-up on the physics & culture of nuclear waste, & why the industry has gotten it wrong for so long:
When people want to talk about the waste, they want answers to two questions:

1. Is the waste safe today?
2. Is the waste safe after the apocalypse?

Let’s start with the first.
The rule of thumb for radiation is as follows:

Short half-life means higher radioactivity (think spicier) but for a shorter time.

Long half-life means lower radioactivity (less spicy) but for a longer time. Graph illustrating the amount of time it takes for substance
Read 27 tweets
Jul 26, 2022
Which way, western man? ImageImage
It’s not too late to learn from past mistakes.

There’s a growing movement of labor unions, climate scientists, and pro-nuclear environmentalists championing a new path towards a reliable, carbon-free future for New York 👇🏼
Thank you to @TomZambito for taking the time to talk to us and covering this important issue. He’s doing readers a great service.

Check out the full article here:…
Read 5 tweets

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