The following is in response Bernard Swope’s Sept. 8 Open Forum, “Giant steps for mankind,” concerning the recent change in Swedish nuclear energy policy.
Having actually, briefly, worked in Sweden on nuclear energy, the change in policy was not because “renewables are unreliable” or “progressive” ideology. Also there is no effort anywhere to prevent the use of petrochemicals to produce “thousands of products,” although there is, of course, an effort to reduce single-use plastics.
The Swedish goal to be “fossil fuel free by 2040” is not limited to electricity, but also includes transportation fossil fuel use. Sweden has led the world for many years in the production and use of green hydrogen (from hydroelectric). Although hydrogen may end up providing significant transportation energy, either by direct combustion and/or onboard electricity production from fuel cells, there are significant challenges with providing hydrogen pipelines and fueling stations, in addition to onboard hydrogen storage (e.g., 10,000 psi tanks).
Sweden is hedging its bets by preparing to possibly provide more electricity for electric vehicles. There is, however, remaining controversy in Sweden with the increased use of more expensive nuclear energy, rather than the less expensive renewable energy.
Sweden reprocesses its used nuclear fuel, thereby reducing the storage time in its more than half-mile deep nuclear waste storage facility to 100,000 years, as compared to the 1 million years proposed for the U.S.
In addition to reducing the radioactivity, reprocessing recovers the energy for electricity remaining in the used nuclear fuel (e.g., 90% remains after 5 years of reactor operation). The proposed U.S. approach of not reprocessing left so much unused thermal energy in the nuclear waste that it would have “massively perturbed” Yucca Mountain; i.e., produced cracks which would have leaked radioactive gases for hundreds of thousands of years.
There is no financial incentive for the nuclear energy industry to use the more expensive reprocessing to reduce radioactive waste by 90% since the U.S. taxpayers pay for nuclear waste disposal; e.g., the $15 billion for the failed Yucca Mountain project.
Similarly, U.S. taxpayers pay to plug abandoned oil and gas wells, treat abandoned coal mining acid wastewater, and restore land from abandoned coal strip mines. This is in addition to the global, direct subsidies of the fossil fuel industry of $1.3 trillion per year and the global, fossil fuel damages estimated at $5.7 trillion per year.
Source : Winchesterstar