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Waste Management: The Critical Element For Nuclear Energy Expansion

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the put-that-anywhere dept.

Earth 281

Lasrick (2629253) writes "As part of a roundtable on the risks of developing nuclear power in developing countries, Harvard's Yun Zhou explores the reprocessing of spent fuel. Zhou points out that no country in the world has come up with a permanent solution to nuclear waste in either of its two forms: the spent fuel that emerges directly from reactor cores and the high-level radioactive waste that results when spent fuel is reprocessed. Zhou points out that China and France have just announced a joint effort to establish a reprocessing plant, but that option isn't really practical for the developing world."

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China and France? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855291)

Soy bread?

No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (5, Funny)

Thantik (1207112) | about 6 months ago | (#46855305)

Nuclear plants might be safer/cleaner than coal and all, but when they fail (and they always seem to, due to people attempting to cut costs and corners) it leaves areas of land unusable to us humans. Not just a little unusable either. It does it for such a long time that it might as well be considered permanent. Solar, Water, Wind are all completely renewable sources of energy that upon failure...don't destroy the ecosystem around it.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (4, Informative)

gmuslera (3436) | about 6 months ago | (#46855335)

Actually seems that waste from coal plants is even more radioactive than the ones from nuclear plants [scientificamerican.com] , and that waste goes to the environment instead of being restricted in small areas.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855505)

This get me curious... what has more unusable land... the "Magic Forest" around Chernobyl, or the land that can't be used due to tainted wells and such in Pennsylvania, not to mention the ever-so-toxic areas with mine tailings. Places like Centralia, PA come to mind as well.

I'd say that there was less environmental damage from the worst nuclear disaster in human history than the status quo in other energy methods.

Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accident (3, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46855681)

There's really no comparison. Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people at Banquai. (Or was it 180,000?). Nuclear power has killed dozens of people in 50 years. Coal? Ever heard of Black Lung? Nuclear has proven to be orders of magnitude safer than any other option for bulk power.

Solar can provide about 5% of our energy needs, but for the vast majority of our power, we can choose between oil, coal, natural gas, or nuclear. Of the options that can provide significant power, nuclear is by far the safest option, by a very large margin.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 6 months ago | (#46855723)

I've already posted this below but just to repeat it so this 5% nonsense doesn't gain any more traction...

I'm afraid you underestimate the staggering power of the grand daddy of all nuclear power plants, the one that rises and sets each day. Covering some tiny percentage of the uninhabited portions of the Sahara for example, approximately the size of Wales, would supply Europe's baseload, and that's with relatively inefficient PV cells.

http://www.dailytech.com/EU+Of... [dailytech.com]

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46855811)

Solar power people are as deluded as the religious zealots they hate so much. Ever looked up what it takes to produce a solar cell? The amount of silver? The mining of the silver is so destructive that solar power is one of the worst forms of energy for the environment. Coals worst of course. Nuclear is almost totally nurtral. The few accidents we've had with it have been on 40yr old 1st generation reactors, all of them. Modern reactors can't fail. We, unfortunately, don't build any of them however. Because people like you drag your misinformed hippy mother earth religion into the frey. I'm sick of it, if solar worked my roof would be covered with solar cells and I'd be getting rich of selling it to all my neighbors. What do I get instead? A $30,000, very ugly roof so I can save $30 a month on my electric bill. It's THAT GOD DAMNED OBVIOUS.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (4, Insightful)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 6 months ago | (#46856087)

Modern reactors can't fail.

This. Right here. This is the attitude that makes so many people distrustful of nuclear proponents.

I know you said we don't actually build "modern" reactors, but ANY design of reactor can fail, because people run them, boards that demand profit oversee management, and sometimes people fly airplanes into buildings.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (4, Insightful)

duke_cheetah2003 (862933) | about 6 months ago | (#46856407)

I think he meant, new reactor designs do not fail catastrophically. The built in *PASSIVE* safety of these new designs would mean it take a deliberate act (sabotage) to cause a reactor to fail in a way that involves the release of radioactive materials.

You can't put fail and sabotage together and say the reactor is unsafe. *ANYTHING* is unsafe if it's sabotaged correctly.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856105)

It's THAT GOD DAMNED OBVIOUS.

What is obvious is that you are a dumb shit.

Get the fuck out of here, you don't belong on this website, this place is
for smart people.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856393)

So because you don't like the answer but can't be bothered to pull out any proof...a nice personal attack. Bravo.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (1)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46856397)

Photoelectric isn't there yet. Might not be in my lifetime.

But solar thermal? A black pipe and a mirrored trench? Works for anyone, developed or otherwise. No, it's not cheaper than the price of natural gas today, but no rush. No, you can't really do it at home scale, but as an inexhaustible low-tech power generation solution to fall back on? It's got us covered.

Personally, I think fossil fuels will be fine for the 50-100 years that fusion is still 20 years away, but just in case I'm wrong, the fallback plan of solar thermal just isn't that bad. (And while a magic battery would be nice, molten salt works OK, as does plants that are natural gas backed when needed to take up the slack.)

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (1)

dryeo (100693) | about 6 months ago | (#46856495)

Do you think that mining uranium is safe? Radon exposure, heavy metal poisoning, then there are the acids etc that are used. Don't be misled by the people who claim that nuclear is perfectly safe without mentioning accidents such as Church Rock as if someone is lying, why believe anything they say.

!?!?!? 500,000 is more than zero (3, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46856567)

Church Rock mine? Are you kidding?

Coal mining: 500,000 victims of black lung
Hydroelectric: 300,000+ killed
Church Rock and all other uranium mining: 0. Maybe a cow.

Yeah, the uranium sure as heck looks like the safest option to me.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46855947)

What I'm getting from your article is that theoretical technologies, combined with outsourcing power production to a geo-politically hostile region, combined with dubious power transmission, could supply Europe's baseload (note: read your own article, it was focusing on parabolic dish collectors, not PV cells).

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 6 months ago | (#46856117)

Nothing theoretical about them. The geopolitics is an issue but it shouldn't be in places like the US. HVDC lines have been built and work great, and are being built in many places around the world.

Bottom line boys and girls, we're drowning in energy whether shining from on high or blown in by the wind.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46856299)

So........have you even finished reading your own article yet?

for three hours, unless it's cloudy (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46856189)

Yeah, covering thousands of square miles with solar panels would provide a significant amount of power - from 11AM to 2PM. For the other 21 hours per day, the choices are coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear.

You do far more harm to your cause than the good you're trying to do when you mistakenly or purposefully misrepresent its capabilities. Solar is a good way to supplement primary power sources, in some situations. In a few cases, like a cabin in the wilderness, it makes sense as a primary power source. If you sell solar on its actual capabilities, it can reduce fossil fuel use by 5%. That's significant. That's something to try to accomplish.

When you post bull about solar replacing natural gas, about powering cities primarily from solar, most readers know you're full of it and they see another example of either a solar loony or a solar scammer. BILLIONS have been lost to solar scams and Obama's "solar" slush fund. You guys have a SERIOUS credibility problem right now and the way to solve that is to pitch solar's benefits while frankly acknowledging its limitations. Blowing smoke, pretending those limitations don't exist, just puts solar in the same category as snake oil.

Re:for three hours, unless it's cloudy (0)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46856413)

California built a solar thermal plant that could also burn natural gas as needed. In practice, 90% of power was solar. 90%. Not theoretical.

But the green hate it as it's not pure solar, and the geeks hate it as it's not photoelectric, and the energy companies hate it as it's only 10% fossil, so it lost the political games and was eventually decommissioned.

it was 13% perpetual motion from aliens (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46856601)

Your smoking something. Unless of course you're talking about a "power plant" that only operated from 11AM to 1PM. In some places, solar IS a nice supplement during those hours.

Re:for three hours, unless it's cloudy (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 6 months ago | (#46856419)

solar fucking thermal.

yes, solar pre-heating is good. Photo electric not (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46856627)

Absolutely. If people gave a shit about the environment they'd use and promote solar thermal, which actually works. It can be as simple as an exterior water tank painted black, so it preheats the water before it enters the natural gas water heater.

Becauseit's simple and actually works, it's less fun to talk about than perpetual motion, aliens, Nikola Tesla, and magical solar panels that work at night.

There is one form of life not underestimating (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46856569)

I'm afraid you underestimate the staggering power of the grand daddy of all nuclear power plants

You know who doesn't underestimate that power? All of the birds dying at California solar plants. [gizmodo.com]

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855845)

it's well established that Germany is covering over 25% of their energy demands with wind & solar. They're planning to nearly double this within 10 years.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04... [nytimes.com]

'fraid not. They hope 25% of ELECTRICITY. 3% actua (4, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46856239)

I'm afraid the author of that article got the facts grossly wrong, in a couple of different ways. DOE has a wealth of statistics in easily readable reports you can look at. Bottom line, by tripling the cost of electricity, Germany now gets about 3% of their energy from solar.

The author confused ENERGY with ELECTRICITY, and confused GOALS with RESULTS. Germany tried to reduce electric usage (via huge surcharges) and increase solar usage (via huge subsidies) so that solar would be a larger percentage of electricity. They could have just turned off all of the non-solar electric plants to get 100% solar electric (but a huge electricity shortage). That's essentially the same as what they did, but they were a little less extreme. Their goal was 25% of ELECTRICITY would be solar. To do that, you've got to dramatically reduce electric usage - no electric cars, for sure.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 6 months ago | (#46856409)

comets have killed 0 people in the last 50 years... With nuclear the probability for a serious accident is non zero, and the stakes are much higher than coal for instance.

it can and should be done, but let's not whitewash the risks here. it's sufficiently risky that perhaps it should be done on a government level, and letting private companies cut corners on safety and inspections isn't in our best interest.

I'm very much pro-nuclear and pro-reprocessing -- but i don't think that it's wise to say that because nothing serious has happened yet, means that something serious won't happen at all.

coal: 500,000 direct victims, untold environmental (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46856589)

> With nuclear the probability for a serious accident is non zero, and the stakes are much higher than coal for instance.

Higher than coal, you day. Let's compare coal. There have been about 500,000 casualties from black lung, and the indirect, environmental damage is incalculable. Compare to about 200 people from nuclear power. Right now there are 600 nuclear power plants operating, and we've had nuclear power for about 50 years, so we have a good basis of comparison. Nuclear is, by the numbers, at least 2,000 times safer than coal.

Are there risks with everything? Of course! Nuclear has risks. Modern designs don't have the catastrophic risks of 1950s designs, but of course there are risks. We need power, though, so we need to look at the safEST options. Nothing is perfectly safe - taking a shower kills a lot of people. Of the available options, nuclear is safER than anything else that can produce the gigawatts of stable, reliable power that we need.

Re:Hydroelectric killed 280,000 people in 1 accide (2)

dryeo (100693) | about 6 months ago | (#46856479)

If you're going to reference black lung and damn failures, you should really reference similar things in the nuclear industry. How many people have died from mining uranium? And yes the Navajo are people so should be counted. Unluckily it is hard to count as they usually die later from cancer and such and the government and especially private industry don't want to admit that radon exposure kills as well that Uranium causes heavy metal poisoning.. Then we can get to accidents such as Church Rock, killed one hell of a lot of cattle and sheep and the kids were playing in the same water but they weren't white so why care.
You don't do your argument much good if you downplay nuclear to make it seem perfectly safe when it isn't and stating that much of the mining was for weapons doesn't change that in the future it may well be for energy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U... [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U... [wikipedia.org]

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (2)

blagooly (897225) | about 6 months ago | (#46855665)

A clarification was added to that article: ounce for ounce, coal ash released from a power plant delivers more radiation than nuclear waste shielded via water or dry cask storage. The comparison is to radioactivity released to the environment, not the total amount created, nor the amount in nuclear waste.

The issue is what to do with the waste in the fuel pools. Not how much gets into the environment from day to day operations.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (2)

MrKaos (858439) | about 6 months ago | (#46855693)

Actually seems that waste from coal plants is even more radioactive than the ones from nuclear plants [scientificamerican.com] , and that waste goes to the environment instead of being restricted in small areas.

The editors note in the Scientific American article is qualifies itself by referring to reactors in normal operation and not the entire Nuclear industry, it's accidents or production byproducts from enrichment. Furthermore radioactive isotopes in coal ash are not enriched like those used in Nuclear reactors.

The actual state of affairs with Nuclear waste is much more serious than the S.A article would lead you to believe and this sobering article from National Geographic [nationalgeographic.com] reveals the current state of Nuclear waste, at least in America.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46856513)

Most of that 'Waste' is fuel that should be 'burned' in a reactor. The tailings came out of the ground in a mine and when the mine is depleted, they can go back in. The area will be less radioactive than it was before we started. The depleted uranium is just metal, nothing special about it except that it's density makes it a pretty good material for armor piercing rounds. We can use it for things like that, bury it, or breed it into fuel (or particalize it and blow it into the air like coal plants do, but I don't recommend that one). The liquid waste is mostly water, if we apply a bit of energy to it (perhaps from a nuclear reactor), we can diminish that considerably and have a more manageable waste. The tools and such are low level waste. We don't want kids playing with it, but it's not worse in general than the various carcinogenic waste from coal and oil.

It's amazing how bad you can make anything look if you're willing to stretch the truth. Just think of the many gallons of toxic waste created when you build a solar thermal plant (and by toxic waste, I mean in the porta-pottys).

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 6 months ago | (#46856575)

It's amazing how bad you can make anything look if you're willing to stretch the truth.

What are you suggesting?

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856029)

Actually seems that waste from coal plants is even more radioactive than the ones from nuclear plants [scientificamerican.com] , and that waste goes to the environment instead of being restricted in small areas.

Some idiot always trots this out whenever there is a discussion of nuclear power.

Let's see you explain how the waste from Fukushima and Chernobyl was "restricted to small areas", smart boy.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (2)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46856543)

By that standard, every normally operating coal plant is much worse than Three Mile Island during it's incident, but since it's not the N word, it's all A-OK.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 6 months ago | (#46856607)

Not true. The article made an unfair comparison. Read the editorial comment at the end. Coal plants release more radiation into the environment because the waste from nuclear power plants is not released into the environment. Radioactive waste is stored, and only a small amount of radiation escapes from storage as long as there is not an accident. If the waste from a nuclear power plant were dumped into the environment, they'd put out far more radioactive pollution than coal ever could.

When there is an accident, nuclear plants can leave areas contaminated and unsafe for centuries. Coal plants cannot do that kind of damage. And there will be accidents, not because we don't know how to run a nuclear plant safely, but because we can't be trusted to do so. Chernobyl was excused as the incompetence and corruption of a typical Communist dictatorship. But Fukushima has no such excuse. Nuclear plant management feels pressure to cut costs, and starts cutting corners even before the plant is built. Safety features like walls get cheapened by never building them as high as they should have been. Soon they're neglecting maintenance and inspections, Emergency equipment may not be in working order, if it exists at all. The ranks of management may become filled with cronies and hacks who do not understand the risks they are taking, and who don't care either.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (4, Informative)

ray-auch (454705) | about 6 months ago | (#46855375)

TANSTAAFL. Coal and oil are pretty good at rendering large areas uninhabitable. Water (tidal and hydro) is pretty good at major ecosystem change and rendering areas uninhabitable. Wind and solar might look like ok in the area of _deployment_, but if you look at the manufacturing... [ok, I'll save you googling it, here's one that took me all of 30secs to find: http://www.worldwatch.org/node... [worldwatch.org] ]

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (0)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 6 months ago | (#46855459)

Your link says nothing of wind, and as for solar it says the following:

"Technologies exist to recycle the chemical byproducts of solar-cell production, but some Chinese polysilicon plants, including Luoyang Zhonggui, are cutting costs and corners by avoiding significant extra investment in pollution control."

Meanwhile solar cell manufacturing in Europe and elsewhere does in fact use full environmental controls.

It always puzzles me how people can type rants about toxic materials being used in the manufacture of solar cells on a machine which was manufactured from and using... toxic materials.

Anyway the trick is in laying down HVDC cables all over the place to get the power from where there's sun/wind to where the energy is most needed. Thankfully large scale projects of that nature are under construction as we speak.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855537)

Anyway the trick is in laying down HVDC cables all over the place to get the power from where there's sun/wind to where the energy is most needed. Thankfully large scale projects of that nature are under construction as we speak.

That's not the trick. The trick is to come up with enough solar cells/wind farms to actually cover some significant fraction of baseload requirements. Even the most optimistic estimates put wind/solar at 5%. What do you plan to do about the other 95%?

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 6 months ago | (#46855589)

I'm afraid you underestimate the staggering power of the grand daddy of all nuclear power plants, the one that rises and sets each day. Covering some tiny percentage of the uninhabited portions of the Sahara for example, approximately the size of Wales, would supply Europe's baseload, and that's with relatively inefficient PV cells. http://www.dailytech.com/EU+Of... [dailytech.com]

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (2)

rssrss (686344) | about 6 months ago | (#46855779)

I suppose you have solved the problem of the sun's daily disappearing act.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 6 months ago | (#46856333)

Yes, we'll have large rocket engines that stop the Earth's rotation.

What could go wrong?

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 6 months ago | (#46856129)

Now find a way to deliver that power to Europe. Solve that, and you've solved the solar base-load issue.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 6 months ago | (#46856153)

HVDC lines, and done.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 6 months ago | (#46855533)

but when they fail (and they always seem to

Hmm, 600-odd nuclear reactors in the world. And they always fail? Odd that I've only heard of three failures, including one that was self-inflicted (if you put a reactor into an unsafe condition to test whether you can extract power from a reactor while it's melting down, don't be terribly surprised if it melts down).

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 6 months ago | (#46855621)

Odd that I've only heard of three failures,

It wasn't a failure, but there was almost a huge disaster in the UK. [wikipedia.org] As for your three, I assume your list is Fukashima, Cernobyl and Three Mile Island?

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855899)

There were *many* near disasters in the early days. But since 1970, only 3 disasters.

1. because of experiment that ignore *known at the time reasons* to not do said experiment (xenon)
2. because of tsunami, an unheard of event in said country
3. because of faulty signaling + operators that did not recognize what was happening in front of their eyes.

In *ALL* cases of nuclear disasters, or near disasters, all the effects were local and temporary. Coal and other fossil fuels, on the other hand, are global and long term problems. To put it another way, by the time Pripyat becomes livable place (few hundred years at most), and all the "exclusion zones" become part of history (including Fukushima), Global Warming caused by today's coal/oil/gas burning will continue to warm and fuck over people on this planet. This is provided we don't turn Earth into another Venus by continually ramping up faster and faster fossil fuel extraction rates.

Summary,
    * nuclear pollution by *accident* causes *immediate* *local* problems that last dozens of years to a few centuries
  * fossil fuel pollution by *design* causes *deferred* *global* problems that last for thousands of years

This of course means the so called "environmentalists" prefer to kill nuclear power. Why risk *immediate* *local* problems? They will not have to deal with the *global* issues in the future. They prefer to "pass the buck" forward... how can that be "sustainable" is beyond my level of understanding.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46856443)

This is provided we don't turn Earth into another Venus by continually ramping up faster and faster fossil fuel extraction rates.

You were probably going for hyperbole, but some people actually believe this sort of BS. All the carbon in all the worlds known fossil fuel reserves (plus all the carbon in the air plus all the carbon in the oceans, plus all the carbon in the worlds biomass, combined) are really quite tiny in comparison to the geological carbon cycle.

If we try really hard we might end the Quaternary Ice Age early, or we might not, we don't know enough to say, but a Warm Earth is overall more biosphere-friendly than current conditions: more exposed land, and with higher atmospheric CO2, plant life vibrant enough to sustain 15 ton herbivores across that land. We face possibly quite expensive relocation if we go and melt the ice caps, and sure, it would suck to rebuild most major cities, but that's as bad as it gets. Long term (i.e., geological time scales, don't get your hopes up), it won't matter at all.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856141)

We're talking about nuclear energy, Windscale wasn't even trying to be dual use (Like Chernobyl), it had no power component at all. It was purely for making nuclear weapons.

Most people won't include it in a list of nuclear energy incidents.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

sploxx (622853) | about 6 months ago | (#46855875)

I would say we have no other option than nuclear and this will become VERY evident in the next decade or so.

Oil prices are going up. The talk about peak oil does make sense.

But peak uranium and thorium are still a VERY LONG way out!

As soon as it really starts to impact our lifestyle, I bet that people will start building nuclear power plants again. Our current squabbles and distake for nuclear power is just the sign of decadent NIMBYs.

People talk about (nuclear) WW3 because of Ukraine. So that would be a devastating war about oil resources, using nuclear power in entirely the wrong way. How crazy is that??!

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

Harlequin80 (1671040) | about 6 months ago | (#46856075)

The biggest issue with regards to oil & gas shortages is not power generation related. Oil & gas represent our current best option for mobile energy. Even if we converted all oil & gas power generation to nuclear we will still consume a huge amount of Oil/Gas.

Without cost effective transport our economies and life style will collapse. Until we find a high efficiency, fast charge battery type option or some other way of storing energy for transport we actively need oil.

I personally feel that baseload generation should be nuclear so that we have longer to get electric vehicles and the required infrastructure in place. This is particularly true in places like Australia where range is a much bigger issue than a lot of places.

On a side note though peak oil doesn't appear to have happened as expected. Oil prices seem to be tied more to demand changes than supply changes ie rising price being tied to rapid increases in wealth in Asia. On the supply side it takes a long time to bring a basin to production so rapidly rising demand has a greater impact on price than anything else. Australia has seen the construction of 4 MASSIVE export focussed gas refineries and ports over the past 5 years, this is all because of the current un-utilised reserves in the cooper-eromanga, perth, canning, surat, bowen and gunnadeh basins which look like they hold a huge amount of gas and condensate. (APLNG, QCLNG, Barrow Island, Ichthys with Browse as a future one)

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

sploxx (622853) | about 6 months ago | (#46856225)

There are options to generate synthetic fuel using nuclear power, though!

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

Harlequin80 (1671040) | about 6 months ago | (#46856483)

Are there? The only ones I was aware of were coal to oil type conversions or hydrogen production. What options are there for a petroleum substitute that doesn't require something like coal?

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | about 6 months ago | (#46855883)

Nuclear plants might be safer/cleaner than coal and all, but when they fail (and they always seem to, due to people attempting to cut costs and corners) it leaves areas of land unusable to us humans. Not just a little unusable either. It does it for such a long time that it might as well be considered permanent. Solar, Water, Wind are all completely renewable sources of energy that upon failure...don't destroy the ecosystem around it.

This is insightful, not funny - please moderate appropriately - Thanks!

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 6 months ago | (#46855921)

Nuclear plants might be safer/cleaner than coal and all, but when they fail (and they always seem to, due to people attempting to cut costs and corners) it leaves areas of land unusable to us humans. Not just a little unusable either. It does it for such a long time that it might as well be considered permanent. Solar, Water, Wind are all completely renewable sources of energy that upon failure...don't destroy the ecosystem around it.

This is insightful, not funny - please moderate appropriately - Thanks!

I disagree with your assertion that it is an insightful post. It is not. "Wrong", "blinkered" or "Koolaid-stained" would be more accurate.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 6 months ago | (#46856527)

Nuclear plants might be safer/cleaner than coal and all, but when they fail (and they always seem to, due to people attempting to cut costs and corners) it leaves areas of land unusable to us humans. Not just a little unusable either. It does it for such a long time that it might as well be considered permanent. Solar, Water, Wind are all completely renewable sources of energy that upon failure...don't destroy the ecosystem around it.

This is insightful, not funny - please moderate appropriately - Thanks!

I disagree with your assertion that it is an insightful post. It is not. "Wrong", "blinkered" or "Koolaid-stained" would be more accurate.

Then let's examine your assertion of the OP with the facts.

Nuclear plants might be safer/cleaner than coal and all, but when they fail (and they always seem to, due to people attempting to cut costs and corners) it leaves areas of land unusable to us humans.

Chernobyl fall-out area 2640 Square kilometres of farmland, 1900 sqkm of forest and an uninhabitable city [wikipedia.org] . So the OP's first point, check.

(and they always seem to, due to people attempting to cut costs and corners)

To save money on construction costs the AP-1000 cuts back on concrete and steel. The result is a ratio of containment volume to thermal power below that of today’s PWRs, thereby increasing the risk of containment over-pressurization and failure in event of a severe accident. Fukushima happened because TEPCO resisted changes to put improvements inplace (according to the official report). Second point, check.

Not just a little unusable either. It does it for such a long time that it might as well be considered permanent.

pu-239, half life 25,000 years, sr-90 half life 600 years. Third point, check.

Solar, Water, Wind are all completely renewable sources of energy that upon failure...don't destroy the ecosystem around it.

So Wind power, gear boxes catch fire and has infrasound issues. Solar cells use the same nasty chemicals that ICs use when created. Your assertion is that if solar and wind generation fail they destroy the ecosystem. Although if the sun fails and goes super nova, yeah, that will wipe out everything.

It seems that your assertion that the OP is "Wrong", "blinkered" or "Koolaid-stained" is "uninformed", "prejudiced" and "without basis". I welcome you to present any facts to back up your prejudices, however from what I see the OP's post reflects the facts accurately.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855977)

I'll moderate how I damn well please. If I hadn't just used my last point it'd be getting a -1 out of sheer bloody-mindedness.

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1, Insightful)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 6 months ago | (#46855905)

Solar, Water, Wind are all completely renewable sources of energy that upon failure...don't destroy the ecosystem around it.

You forgot "completely unreliable" and "unsuitable for most energy needs".

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856519)

Research is hard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... +5, FUNNY (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 6 months ago | (#46856593)

Solar, Water, Wind are all completely renewable sources of energy that upon failure...don't destroy the ecosystem around it.

Friend, please take a look at my mini-essay Electricity in the Time of Cholera [slashdot.org] .

We're talking about 7 billion people here. We all want access to clean water, sanitation, washing machines and electric lights. Half of the women in the world today wash clothes by hand [youtube.com] . In rural areas 7 of 8 Africans, half of all South Asians, in total an estimated 1.5 billion people [energyfordevelopment.com] lack access to electricity.

What is the combined ecological impact of 1.5 billion rural people living without hope of electrification? They're burning charcoal, inviting short-sighted development practices. Embracing coal mining. Speaking of the United States, if we had not embarked on a massive endeavor to electrify rural areas in the 20th century a large area of our South and Midwest would still be without clean drinking water.

Never mind Water unless you live next to an un-dammed river whose inhabitants would love to be swallowed by a lake, and some powerful distant city has plans for the water, too. [wikipedia.org] Will Solar and Wind deliver electricity to these people... or to anyone? Every time I see a windmill I imagine it as it will look like in 5 years, rusted and frozen. This is farming country, there are quite a few around and none are spinning, guess the cost of operation caught up. Every time I see a photo of a solar panel and hear talk of how it's made of common sand and we should be replicating them by the billions I think of the megatons of silicon tetrachloride [washingtonpost.com] that need to be dumped somewhere for this to happen. And the little elves who would wire them together out in the elements with ten pounds of electronics to make megawatts. During the day. And for watt? No real watts to speak of. NO ONE can afford PV and Wind because it will NOT run a water treatment plant for your local school let alone millions of people 24/7. Period. They are simply 'off the table'.

Nuclear energy -- even from water reactors as it has been produced in North America and Europe -- is the cleanest, safest viable form of energy on the table. But with the Molten Salt Reactor we have the opportunity to take it to greater levels, without the risks of nuclear energy that are most terrifying. Electricity is a centralized industrial-scale process and must stay that way. The math does not work otherwise.

If we do not revitalize our grid get or on track with an acceptable new source of base load energy that could transform the world, end the age of steam and fossil fuel... we could lose it all, you know.

___
Please see Thorium Remix [youtube.com] and my own letters on energy,
To The Honorable James M. Inhofe, United States Senate [scribd.com]
To whom it may concern, Halliburton Corporate [scribd.com]
Also of interest, Faulkner [2005]: Electric Pipelines for North American Power Grid Efficiency Security [scribd.com]

Re:No thanks on Nuclear proliferation... (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | about 6 months ago | (#46856617)

Nuclear plants might be safer/cleaner than coal and all, but when they fail (and they always seem to, due to people attempting to cut costs and corners) it leaves areas of land unusable to us humans.

We've moved on since Chernobyl.

Nuclear is the still the safest source of power available in existence, even if we had another chernobyl or two Nuclear would still retain the title of safest and cleanest energy source.

Kill it with MAGMA! (2)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 6 months ago | (#46855311)

About a decade or so ago I recall reading an article that suggested cutting a hole into the earths surface where it's thinnest and dropping the stuff directly into the magma. At that point it would just be a matter of building a good air seal to keep any remaining toxic or radioactive gasses from escaping.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46855389)

An technical article or a chapter in some random science fiction magazine? You don't 'cut a hole' into the earth's surface where the crust is thinnest - that happens to be deep underwater.

And it would be quite a bit more effort than 'just' building an air seal.

In fact, it's a perfectly insane concept. You might consider putting the material near a subducting tectonic plate and plan on the downward flow of material trapping and subsequently diluting the radioactive material. You don't have to drill a big hole, you 'just' have to wait a couple of thousand years while the material gets incorporated into the plate, all the while worrying about leakage of the containers.

There are no easy answers, no low hanging fruit.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 6 months ago | (#46855579)

Why not drop sealed casks into 5 mile deep trenches?

It's not like there are monsterous creatures lurking in the depths that it would be unwise to awaken.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (2)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 6 months ago | (#46855929)

Why not drop sealed casks into 5 mile deep trenches?

It's not like there are monsterous creatures lurking in the depths that it would be unwise to awaken.

Why not just use the so called "waste"? Most of it could be reused in a reactor along the lines of the integral fast reactor. Sadly, that reactor never came to being due to political interests trumping all others.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 6 months ago | (#46856073)

It moves up the food chain over time. Small deep critters carry hot particles up to the larger more shallow big fish. Over years even basic ww2 chemical weapons dumps in the ocean have been found to spread in unexpected ways. All the ideas for waste dumps have been thought of.
Most solutions are about re use (France, Russia) or long term storage off site (USA). The main issue is the past need for nuclear weapons and the tech the USA used and did not want use. The US is left with a lot of hot waste to dump somewhere.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 6 months ago | (#46855689)

You might consider putting the material near a subducting tectonic plate and plan on the downward flow of material trapping and subsequently diluting the radioactive material. You don't have to drill a big hole, you 'just' have to wait a couple of thousand years while the material gets incorporated into the plate, all the while worrying about leakage of the containers.

Obviously you have to drop a big mass of harmless material on top of it, something that will keep containers from spewing into the ocean as they pop. But so far this still seems like the best available option. That part of the planet is full of radioactives anyway.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (1)

eclectro (227083) | about 6 months ago | (#46855757)

There are no easy answers, no low hanging fruit.

From an engineering standpoint, it is unacceptable considering that there are too many unknown "vectors." So much as the hole to the mantle is concerned, it doesn't make sense cost wise as the hole would cost more (far) than a traditional reprocessing means (whatever that may be).

This is one reason a huge amount has been spent on fusion energy and that incredibly exotic technology. Smaller reactors like Bill Gates travelling wave reactor are promising, but yet unproven technology.

Probably the way forward over huge monolithic reactors from the past - which can not be built unless government doles out money to them. Because the free market does not accept them on their own merits.

As you aptly said, no low hanging fruit that can be seen.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855833)

Another very promising but grossly underfunded fusion effort is the Focus Fusion project.

If they get this working it will make the climate change debate completely moot. Both sides should be fervently pushing for this kind of advancement because if it works everybody wins. (Thorium is also worth looking at very closely.)

2007 Google Talk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhKB-VxJWpg

http://www.focusfusion.org/
http://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (1)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 6 months ago | (#46855767)

No, I didn't just read it in a sci-fi mag. I rather wish I had access to the original article, but it's been a long time back. From the article it states that there are a few places on this planet where the thrust is rather thing. I THINK the place they mentioned was either Iceland or Greenland.. again... working from my crappy memory here. At these points it's 'only' a mile or so down. Which could THEORETICALLY work.

But this whole article was more or less speculation. Probably written by some engineer or scientist thinking up random ideas on how to get rid of the stuff. Of course this makes it about as good as your statement about it being a work of fiction.

Re:Kill it with MAGMA! (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 6 months ago | (#46855927)

They already tried that in a movie back in the '60s, and things went terribly wrong, Crack in the World: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

No, not THAT crack.

Nuclear waste (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 6 months ago | (#46855337)

Throw it into the Sun, maybe? - Zoidberg

Re:Nuclear waste (3, Interesting)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | about 6 months ago | (#46855485)

This would entail the risk of failure in the launch phase which could rain down a nasty amount of stuff anywhere on Earth.

MAYBE when we have a viable Space Elevator would folk give careful consideration to this. Until then, forget about it.

But even then, you'd still have the expense of the Delta-V to get it to fall into the Sun. It almost certainly would be cheaper to send the stuff to Alpha Centuari than to the Sun.

Re:Nuclear waste (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 6 months ago | (#46856081)

But even then, you'd still have the expense of the Delta-V to get it to fall into the Sun. It almost certainly would be cheaper to send the stuff to Alpha Centuari than to the Sun.

I've done the math. It would (IIRC, it's actually more fuel efficient to almost escape from the Solar System, then fall back into the Sun, than it is to try directly falling into the Sun from Earth). However, you wouldn't have to send the waste into the sun, merely "not Earth" would be enough (still very expensive, though). It's not going to hurt much floating in orbit between here and Mars, for instance.

Politics (4, Insightful)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 6 months ago | (#46855385)

"no country in the world has come up with a political solution to nuclear waste" FTFY

The technology is relatively simple. But then so are the opponents.

Re:Politics (1)

fermion (181285) | about 6 months ago | (#46855815)

The article is pretty plain. Reprocessing is expensive and will require multinational commitments. In absence of such commitments, interim storage is the solution. Interim and longer term storage is a political decision. In the US that decision is as simple as coming up with a consensus location, condemning the land, and building a storage facility using existing technology. Since the mid 80's no republican or democratic administration has been able to make this political decision.

Re:Politics (2)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 months ago | (#46856421)

integral fast reactors [wikipedia.org] reprocess the fuel onsite cheaply. And they can use spent fuel as input. And they can reprocess spent fuel into new fuel for use in boiling water reactors, so no more Uranium need be mined.

We already have Yucca Mountain, stick it there? (3, Interesting)

marcgvky (949079) | about 6 months ago | (#46855447)

We spent billions on that facility and it can store most waste (including spent fuel) for 1000's of years. Use it!

Re:We already have Yucca Mountain, stick it there? (0)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 6 months ago | (#46855557)

To accomplish that, we first have to remediate a certain 200-lb mass of toxic biohazard waste (D-NV)

Re:We already have Yucca Mountain, stick it there? (1)

marcgvky (949079) | about 6 months ago | (#46855871)

So true.

Re:We already have Yucca Mountain, stick it there? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46855963)

As long as Harry Reid is in the Senate, that will never happen. He has enough connections and power to block Yucca Mountain.

Is this true? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856221)

So a SINGLE person in the Senate has caused the waste of billions of dollars and left nuclear waste all over the country instead of using the money already collected to store it safely?

So he basically embezzeled billions, lied to the people, put them at risk, and its the OTHER party against the little guy?

Re:Is this true? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46856289)

So a SINGLE person in the Senate has caused the waste of billions of dollars and left nuclear waste all over the country instead of using the money already collected to store it safely?

He has been representing the people of his state, so it's not fair to say a single person has caused it. People in Nevada vote for him because they know he will keep doing what they want.

Re:Is this true? (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 6 months ago | (#46856531)

The problem is the people of Nevada. They would not elect anyone who would put nuclear waste in their metaphorical back yard, because fear.

hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855489)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_Oxide_Reprocessing_Plant

Dumb regulations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855525)

It's not nuclear waste, it's unprocessed spent nuclear fuel.

Re:Dumb regulations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855925)

http://www.jimstonefreelance.c... [jimstonefreelance.com]

if you can skip the first 6 paragraphs, this fellow claims to have "interviewed an 85 year old nuclear engineer who worked in the nuclear industry during America's glory days, an engineer who earned GE over 100 patents. He was one of the engineers who designed Fukushima"

Not the best source, but interesting claim that this sodium cooled reactor design can re-use the "spent" fuel up to 20X until it's completely inert.

Centralised Interim Storage (2)

blagooly (897225) | about 6 months ago | (#46855591)

Right now used NPP fuel is piling up in the spent fuel pools. Indian point is effectively full. These are vulnerable, under no containment, an unnecessary risk.They contain ridiculous amounts of radioactivity. They want it gone, not in the parking lot. But it needs to get into casks for now. Casks would be needed to move the stuff later, it would be available for any later reprocessing efforts. This is a minimum first step. For now it is stymied, waiting for the mythical long term site, everyone blaming someone else, and the can gets kicked down the road. It has been 72 years since Fermi's magic trick, still, no long term solution. It is time for plan B.

The plants had some place to ship it once in casks. The prospect of the local NPP becoming a waste storage site would of course cause screaming and yelling, even though that is exactly what they already are, but less safe. West Texas seems gung ho about it, now accepting "temporarily" the Los Alamos stuff that was headed to WIPP for now.

Re:Centralised Interim Storage (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 6 months ago | (#46855705)

The plants had some place to ship it once in casks. The prospect of the local NPP becoming a waste storage site would of course cause screaming and yelling, even though that is exactly what they already are, but less safe. West Texas seems gung ho about it, now accepting "temporarily" the Los Alamos stuff that was headed to WIPP for now.

Given that spent reactor rods can be reprocessed into new reactor rods with a minor contribution of new material, and that the radioactivity of spent rods declines quite rapidly at first*, declining over time, I wonder if letting them sit for a century or so might reduce their radioactivity to the point that reprocessing is no where near as big of a deal as it would be for a 'fresh' rod.

*reactor rods are a composition of quite a few radioactive materials, some with half-lifes measured in the minutes, some measured in the decades, etc...

Re:Centralised Interim Storage (1)

blagooly (897225) | about 6 months ago | (#46855907)

I am not arguing against reprocessing, or other efforts. The problem is the stuff currently already just sits and waits in a vulnerable setup. Casks would lower the risks, and later provide a proper container for shipping to a future reprocessing effort, or storage site. The money is already there for this, from surcharges on electric bills.

The big holdup seems to be the industry has no confidence there will be somewhere else to put it, for good reason. By making a move to on site cask storage, the NPP site becomes the storage solution, and they are stuck with the responsibility, liability and costs.

That is why I mention Texas. Perhaps if they could be convinced of the wisdom of reprocessing? They could charge to take the stuff, charge to store it, then create more income from reprocessing? It seems, if the tech is there, answer should be found. If there is money in it really, someone would be interested?

Consider the source (-1, Offtopic)

rssrss (686344) | about 6 months ago | (#46855745)

FTFP: "Harvard's Yun Zhou explores the reprocessing of spent fuel."

Why should I care about Yun Zhou's opinion on Nuclear fuel cycles? Is she a nuclear engineer with deep experience in the subject? Is she a nuclear chemist? or a nuclear physicist?

So I will do what the poster of this article did not do, I will Google Harvard's Yun Zhou" It was laborious, I selected those words and right clicked on them. Here is what I found:

"Yun Zhou: Doctoral Student in Sociology, Research Interests: Gender; sexuality and feminist theories; inequality and stratification; comparative sociology; quantitative methodology."

So, she does not appear to know any more about the nuclear fuel cycle that I do. Ho hum.

Good work slashdot, always keeping scientific information in front of the public.</sarc>

Re:Consider the source (5, Informative)

ahenders (537057) | about 6 months ago | (#46855855)

That's the wrong Yun Zhou. The Yun Zhou [harvard.edu] who wrote this article has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.

Re:Consider the source (0)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 6 months ago | (#46855959)

Research Interests: Gender; sexuality and feminist theories; inequality and stratification; comparative sociology; quantitative methodology.

Those types go nuclear all the time . . . with little or no activation energy required.

1st step: stop lying for pointless political "wins (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46855803)

A huge first step, which some world-famous environmentalists are now taking, is to clear up the political problem by cutting out the BS, deliberately misleading people. For decades, Greenpeace went around telling people how dangerous some nuclear waste is, as and how some of it lasts for thousands of years. Now the fouunder of Greenpeace explaining that the claim was a bunch of BS. More people need to follow his lead and start telling the truth.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Big Lie, radioactive materials radiate energy at different rates. Just like combustible materials, some go fast and some release energy very slowly. The lie about long-term waste is effectively the same as saying:

Some conmbustible materials shoot out large amounts of heat and burning pieces, so they are dangerous (see gunpowder). Some combustible materials burn for a long time (see candles).

The key fact they tried to oobscure is that the really dangerous stuff is dangerous BECAUSE it releases its energy quickly, just like burning gunpowder. Give it a few years to "burn up" (decay) and it becomes perfectly safe.

The stuff that lasts a long time, that releases energy slowly, is no danger - you'd need to sit next to it for 500 years for it to have time to release significant radiation. On top of that, the long-lived stuff tends to be alpha radiation. Alpha particles are stopped by air, paper, skin, and most other materials. As long as you don't swallow it, you're fine - your skin provides adequate protection.

So says the Sociologist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46855971)

Sociology professor Yun Zhou can't figure out what to do with nuclear waste. Maybe she should contact someone in the physics department.

Re:So says the Sociologist (1)

spitzak (4019) | about 6 months ago | (#46856503)

Good idea! She should contact this person [harvard.edu] , who even has the same name as her!

other ways (1)

tleaf100 (2020038) | about 6 months ago | (#46856041)

or we could just do away with centralised power production.and distribution and go back to mant more,small,local generators. er,am i going to be the first to mention small thorium reactors? a cluster round high level dumps could help.get rid of that problem,while others could be getting rid of low/mid level waste thst is ok to transport safely. we use most power localy,it makes more sense to produce power localy than it does to centralise. small nuclear power stations are much cheaper to build,dont need to be sited right next to sea/lake and could feed waste direct to thorium reactors nearby,helping solve two problems at once.

Re:other ways (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 6 months ago | (#46856457)

The main problem is that people falsely assume humans are an intelligent species. The psychopaths that lead us into the nuke age knew they would be dead before the shit hit the fan. It's the same as eating your children. We are doomed. The only hope is to build an bigger CERN and hope the answer lies in understanding the actual fabric of space time.

Waste waste waste water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856447)

http://www.wipp.energy.gov/Special/AIB_Final_WIPP_Rad_Release_Phase1_04_22_2014.pdf
So where should we put all this waste?

frig off beta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46856449)

yes go away

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