What is the plan and is it safe?

UK plans to expand significantly Its nuclear abilityEfforts to reduce reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels. The government aims to build up to eight new reactors over the next 20 years with a view to increasing the power capacity from the current approximately 8 gigawatts (GW) to 24 GW by 2050. This corresponds to about 25% of the UK’s projected energy demand. , Compared to the surroundings 16% in 2020..

As part of this plan to triple nuclear capacity, Rolls-Royce Small modular reactor (SMR). SMRs are inexpensive and can be used in locations where larger conventional reactors cannot be accommodated, providing more options for future reactor sites.

The new reactor will inevitably mean more radioactive waste. As of 2019, decommissioning of radioactive waste was already estimated to cost UK taxpayers. £ 3 billion Per year. Most of our waste is stored in storage facilities on or near the ground. Cerafield Nuclear Waste Site Cambria is so big that it has the infrastructure of a small town.

However, ground-based nuclear storage is not a viable long-term plan. Governments, scholars and scientists agree that permanent underground disposal is the only long-term strategy to meet safety and environmental concerns. So what plans are underway and can we safely provide them?

Future method

Decades of international cooperation between academic institutions, scientific institutions and government regulators were required to identify a viable route for final disposal of nuclear waste.Earlier ideas included the disposal of excess waste In spaceof Sea Less than Seabed Where the tectonic plates converge, but each is shelved because the risk is too high.

Almost every country now plans to isolate radioactive waste from the environment. Geological disposal facility (GDF). Some models have a GDF built 1,000 meters underground, but 700 meters is more realistic. These facilities receive low, medium and high levels of nuclear waste (classified according to radioactive decay and half-life) and store them safely for up to hundreds of thousands of years.

The process of creating such a facility is not simple. The organization responsible for providing GDF.In the UK Nuclear waste service The (NWS) must not only overcome huge environmental and technical problems, but also gain public support.

Do all GDFs look the same?

Although there are general design concepts, each GDF has its own aspects based on the size and composition of the waste inventory and the geology of the installation site. All countries, under the supervision of regulatory agencies and the general public, tailor GDF to their individual needs.

However, it is the support of all GDFs Multi-barrier concept.. It combines man-made and natural barriers to enable radioactive waste to be isolated from the environment and steadily disintegrate.

The system for preparing high-level waste for storage in such a system begins with the spent nuclear fuel rods from the reactor. First, uranium and plutonium that are still usable for future reactions are recovered. After that, the remaining waste is dried and Host glass, Glass is used because it is durable, durable in groundwater and resistant to radiation. Second, the molten glass is poured into a metal container and solidifies, providing two layers of protection.

This packaged waste is surrounded by excavated rock cavities and backfills of clay or cement that seal the underground tunnel structure. The rock itself, hundreds of meters long, acts as the final layer of containment.

How about the UK program?

The UK GDF program is in its infancy. The location process is based on a so-called volunteer activity approach, allowing the community to propose themselves as potential locations to host the facility. Currently working group (TheddlethorpeLincolnshire) and three community partnerships (Allerdale, Mid Copeland When Sauscope Land In Cambria) was formed. Although the working group is in the early stages of the location process, the next step in the community partnership is to initiate a broader geological survey, followed by drilling a borehole to evaluate the underlying rock.

Public support is the foundation of the entire GDF program. While some countries may take a more tedious approach and choose a site, regardless of public support, the UK GDF mission is centered on community and stakeholder involvement.

Why do residents volunteer? This is a project of over 100 years and many people need to work very close. At the stage of community partnership, we expect to invest up to £ 2.5 million per community per year.

The UK program is a bit behind certain other countries. The world leader is Finland, which has almost completed the world’s first GDF. OncaroHundreds of kilometers west of Helsinki. Priority site GDF has also been selected in the United States, Sweden and France.

The UK Government aims to identify suitable locations within the next 15-20 years and then begin construction. The timescale from the first UK GDF installation to closure and sealing is 100 years, making it the largest UK infrastructure project to date. The technology that provides GDF is ready. All that remains is to find a voluntary community with the right geology.

Is there another way?

It is an international scientific consensus that the GDF approach is the most technically feasible way to permanently dispose of nuclear waste. Oncaro is an example of the world where scientific cooperation and open involvement with the general public can enable safe disposal of nuclear waste.

The only other traction approach is Deep well disposal (DBD) Concept. At face value, this isn’t much different from the GDF approach. Drill a borehole (up to a few kilometers) much deeper than the GDF and place the waste package at the bottom. Countries such as Norway are considering this approach.

Author: Lewis Blackburn-EPSRC PhD Fellow, University of Sheffield Materials Science What is the plan and is it safe?

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