Monday, April 20, 2009

Nuclear Issues: Russia develops new system to store spent nuclear fuel

Pravda reports Tochmash, Russia’s defense enterprise from the city of Vladimir, conducted successful tests of a special ampoule that was designed to store spent nuclear fuel of Russian nuclear power plants. The ampoule guarantees that the storage of toxic fuel will be ecologically secure.

Engineers of the enterprise were working on Ampoule PT for eight years. “It is made of stainless steel, is not heavy at all and is equipped with a unique spring lock that does not let the lid open even under the impact of heavy pressure,” a spokesperson for the enterprise said.

The ampoule looks like a cylinder with a lid. The cylinder will not let fuel particles penetrate into the environment for over 50 years.

The ampoule was originally made to be four meters high, but was later cut to 3.5 meters. The ampoule is meant to store spent nuclear fuel of three Russian nuclear power plants in Kursk, St. Petersburg and Smolensk regions, ITAR-TASS reports.

As Pravda.Ru previously reported Russian Russian scientists suggested burying spent nuclear fuel in Earth's core.

Russian Minister for Nuclear Power Alexander Rumyantsev acknowledged during his recent visit to Helsinki that Finland left Russia behind in the field of technologies to handle the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive wastes.

Scientists of the nuclear power and Greenpeace activists have been arguing for years regarding the spent fuel issue, whether it is supposed to be imported or not, processed or buried. It is a good thing to study foreign colleagues experience. However, there is a very interesting project in Russia about a way to get rid of the radioactive garbage.

This project seems to be a piece of a science fiction story at first sight, since it suggests taking nuclear wastes hundreds of kilometers deep in the Earth. According to the project, there is no need to drill an extremely deep well for it: a hundred tons of radioactive wastes can be placed in a tungsten ball several meters in diameter.

This construction will get heated up to the temperature of 1,200 degrees Celcius itself. The temperature to melt rocks is a lot lower, so the ball will simply drown in the ground like a stone in the water.

This project is called a "Hot Drop," it was born in the Institute of Theoretical Physics more than 30 years ago. The project was developed by Aleksey Byalko and Igor Khalatnikov. Ecologists were first to express their reaction about a new idea.

They claimed that there was no guarantee to prevent from an explosion of the ball with nuclear wastes inside. Even without an explosion, ecologists said, the radiation would be too high. They concluded that no country in the world would agree to let such a thing happen on their territory.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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