Areva Pushes for U.S. Recycling of Nuclear Waste
Nuclear fission reactors have been providing various countries throughout the world with relatively safe and clean energy for the better part of the last half-century. However, opponents to nuclear argue that it is not a “clean” energy due to the highly radioactive waste byproduct that nuclear reactors produce, and it is not “safe” due to the risks involved in meltdown situations like that in Japan recently. Storage facilities have contained nuclear waste for decades, but are a security risk in themselves. As nuclear waste increases, storage capacity decreases, and while electricity consumers may love the cheap nuclear energy powering their lives, no one is excited by the prospect of welcoming a new nuclear waste storage facility anywhere near their community.
French nuclear energy company Areva has found a solution, and is pressuring the United States to adopt its nuclear waste recycling technology. Jacques Besnainou, chief executive of Areva Inc. is working to persuade U.S. utilities companies to invest in recycling spent nuclear fuel, stating that the company will "advocate much more loudly for a recycling center in the U.S,” adding, “We are going to be much more vocal by the end of the year."
Just last month, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future confirmed that the U.S. would need to develop one or more temporary nuclear waste storage facilities as current facilities are reaching their maximum storage capacity. Besnainou states in regard to the findings, "I don't believe that any communities in the U.S. would ever accept long-term centralized storage."
Besnainou believes that nuclear waste recycling facilities, on the other hand, would be welcomed by communities since they will create a new employment base.
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However, the main deterrent to wide-scale acceptance of nuclear waste recycling—which for the most part seems like a smart idea—is of course price point, as well as added security risks. While Areva’s nuclear waste recycling technology produces nuclear fuel that can be used to once again run reactors, it is far more expensive than traditional non-recycled fuel. Plus, the recycling process utilizes plutonium, which creates a whole slew of security risks and measures that would need to be implemented in such a facility.
Steven Kraft, a senior director at the Nuclear Energy Institute, remarks on Besnainou’s proposals, stating, "It's a great idea… I think recycling is something that we're going to have to do in this country."
In any case, it would take time to construct such a recycling facility, and funding would likely become a taxpayer or utility consumer’s burden, although current fees added to nuclear power utilities bills could be diverted to pay for such a facility. Temporary storage facilities, nonetheless, will likely be installed somewhere in the U.S., but location is yet to be determined. Will your community be the next to play host to a stockpile of radioactive nuclear waste?
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
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Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly