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Spent fuel rods are not ‘waste’ 

A worthy shout, Klaus. (“Media missing PG&E facts,� Letters, March 3-March 10.) New Times should afford you more op-ed space for your insightful commentary. Brevity precludes meaningful exposition on nuclear power.

The fuzziness begins by calling spent-fuel “waste� analogous to ashes. The cumulative amount of atomic energy at Diablo, since its initial fueling, increases as a multiple close to the number of re-fuelings. The potential unused atomic energy on-site at Diablo is right now more than 12 times the start-up injection.

The industry’s appallingly wasteful atomic energy extraction resembles a technically sophisticated fire-starting ritual, where highly refined energy sticks are rubbed together to produce heat. Insufficiently extracted core heat is eventually used for heating fluid that drives the dynamos. Much of the secondary heat is removed by cooling … wasted. It’s like boiling water to cook using flash heat derived by rubbing bundles of sticks together. Heat is the lowest form of pure energy, especially wasteful to upgrade (or store) once degraded.

For all that nimble rubbing-together of the power-filled energy sticks,
the only energy extracted from them is a superficial and miniscule surface phenomenon. The potential atomic fire isn’t allowed to begin because we don’t know how to damp it once lit.

So the still-potent and superficially depleted fuel sticks are stacked, much like cord wood, and remain virtually intact fuel — not waste. Thinking of it as waste echoes other commercially complex fuel cycles that also get treated to a grand whitewash … to be reckoned with eventually, someday.


Doug Lewis


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