Bihar Engineering Poll: Nuclear waste disposal

According to the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the estimated cost of cleaning up the waste from 20th-century nuclear power plants is currently £131 billion. In addition, this figure does not include the construction of a geological repository (GDF), a massive underground waste storage facility that was first suggested nearly 50 years ago, but has not even found a viable site yet.

In recent weeks, however, the story has revolved around the expansion of new nuclear power, with the Prime Minister announcing a target of 25 per cent nuclear in the UK’s energy mix (it currently stands at 16 per cent, with several plants approaching maturity). -shift). Westminster’s Nuclear All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has also published a roadmap calling for 15 GW of new nuclear generation by 2035 and 30 GW by 2050, comprising both large-scale Hinkley C-scale plants and small modular reactors (SMRs) operating. are being developed by a Rolls-Royce-led consortium.

Nuclear Waste Disposal
(Credit: Rolls Royce)

According to the NDA, the spent fuel from this next generation of plants will not be cool enough to be moved to a GDF – if one is ever built – for 140 years, further exacerbating the UK’s nuclear waste disposal problem. So not only is the UK struggling to deal with its existing waste on a large scale, in its quest to meet its future energy needs and enable the net-zero transition, it will create massive amounts of high-level waste for which there is currently no strategy to deal with of.

Nuclear Roadmap Calls for 15GW by 2035

The lack of clarity about what the back end of this new nuclear cycle looks like has led some experts to call for a pause in new construction until a firm strategy is in place: one that combines both the old waste from the magnox and gas-cooled reactors from the 20e century, as well as the inevitable highly radioactive waste that will accompany the new generation of pressurized water reactors.

“Despite 65 years of using nuclear power in Britain, we are at best still decades away from facilities to safely dispose of the waste,” said Steve Thomas, a professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, said in a recent Guardian article† “Until we know this is possible, it’s premature to start a major new program of nuclear power plants.”

In the same piece, Claire Corkhill, a professor of nuclear degradation at the University of Sheffield and member of the Radioactive Waste Management Committee, said: “In my personal opinion, I don’t think we should build new nuclear reactors until we have a geological repository available. have… These are completely different from previous reactors and we understand how to deal with the waste only at a very early stage.’

We ask our readers whether it is wise to wait until there is a good waste strategy before committing to more new nuclear energy, or whether we should continue in hopes that a viable strategy can be devised further down the road. Or maybe you think new nuclear power should be scrapped entirely in favor of massive expansion in renewables and storage.

As always, we welcome your bottom line comments and ask that you stay on topic and keep the conversation civil. The results of the poll will be published in the coming weeks.

Abhishek Maheswari
We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

The Bihar Engineering