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Letter: Value of Used Nuclear Fuel Rods

Monday, July 08, 2013

To the Editor:

Opponents of Vermont Yankee say there is no solution to the problem of disposing the used fuel rods. What is true is that there is not a political solution (yet) to the used-fuel problem in this country. Other countries have political solutions, having chosen one of several technical approaches. Nuclear opponents don’t want a solution. Their tactic is to oppose and stall everything that moves the progress of nuclear power forward. They have the misguided belief that if they somehow manage to get it tied in knots, it will wither away or collapse. Why else would they, who claim to be greatly concerned about safety, intervene in the Public Service Board proceedings for a third backup diesel at the plant?

The fact is that 90 percent of used fuel is reusable and will be very valuable in the future. This generation of reactors was meant only to establish a commercial market, not to wring every watt out of the fuel. The DC-3, going into service in 1938 and still flying, really made the market for air travel. Prototypes of reactor designs that use all the fuel were built and tested long ago. China is vigorously pursuing a prototype we built in the 1960s.

As I testified this May to the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee when asked if the used fuel at Vermont Yankee would be there in 300 years: It won’t. It will have been used in one of the new reactor designs. If not used here, it may be sold to China or to some other country.

The used fuel at Vermont Yankee, in its solid form, welded in the original rods, then welded in storage cans, then placed in concrete shield-chimneys, can safely remain where it is, or elsewhere, until its value rises.

Howard Shaffer

Start-up Engineer at Vermont Yankee


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