James Hansen got me to re-think nuclear power in light of climate change. I read up on Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) and corresponded with some of the enthusiasts. What they said sounded good - but doesn't it always? The most appealing selling point for these reactors was the possibility of using them to help reduce the lethality of existing nuclear waste. Luckily, Energy Bulletin pointed me to this article by Amory Lovins that delves into the topic from a different, but informed view. Still, I don't know which is worse for the planet, nuclear catastrophe or the carbon bomb that could kill the oceans for millions of years.
"New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old Story
By Amory B. Lovins
IFRs are often claimed to “burn up nuclear waste” and make its “time of concern . . . less than 500 years” rather than 10,000–100,000 years or more. That’s wrong: most of the radioactivity comes from fission products, including very-long-lived isotopes like iodine-129 and technicium-99, and their mix is broadly similar in any nuclear fuel cycle. IFRs’ wastes may contain less transuranics, but at prohibitive cost and with worse occupational exposures, routine releases, accident and terrorism risks, proliferation, and disposal needs for intermediate- and low-level wastes.