Not so easy to recycle nuclear waste

From the Rutland Herald:

In the Aug.10 public radio program “Vermont Edition,” the three Republican candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives discussed briefly our energy policy. Two candidates voiced a strong, but misguided support for the fast breeder nuclear reactors, and the statement was made that “we should build fast breeders, recycle the nuclear waste and get rid of it, instead of leaving it to our children.”

Nothing is farther from the truth. Although we hear it often, fast breeders cannot recycle waste and get rid of it. Nuclear power is generated by the fission of nuclear fuel, and each fission creates two radioactive fission products. Therefore, the fission products accumulate during the reactor operation, regardless of the type of reactor or the type of fuel considered. The more reactors operate, the more fission products we will have to deal with. There is no physical way to “burn” or recycle this waste. Fission products are here to stay until their natural decay transmutes them into something else. Unfortunately, this decay process can last for thousands of years.

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