December 5, 2007
A prominent researcher shared a nuclear secret today that he said not even everyone in the U.S. Department of Energy knows. Is the U.S., in fact, storing a large amount of nuclear waste produced by France's nuclear reactors?
That was the suggestion in a keynote today at the ThinkEquity ThinkGreen conference in San Francisco by Dr. Yogi Goswami, former President of the International Solar Energy Society, and prolific author and University of Florida professor.
"One small bit of information that most people don’t know, even in our Department of Energy: a large majority of the nuclear waste from France is actually shipped to the U.S.," Goswami said.
"It’s stored in South Carolina. That’s because when initially the French started building nuclear reactors, the U.S. was suspicious of the French, and said ‘hey, you don’t need to keep that nuclear waste over there, we’ll store it for you.’"
"So there’s a contractual relationship that all of that waste comes to the U.S. and is stored in the Savannah River Laboratory, which is the U.S. Department of Energy lab for nuclear waste," he said.
Goswami was speaking on the necessity of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, given that "at 2 percent growth per year, all known nuclear fuel resources will be exhausted in 2030-2037."
While some nuclear proponents maintain the world actually has 2,500 years worth of nuclear material, Goswami says the assertion is flawed, true only "if we are willing to distill the whole sea. Because seawater contains uranium at the level of three parts per billion. But I doubt anybody will be making the economic decision to process uranium from seawater."
The only solution for keeping nuclear plants in commission is to reprocess spent fuel, Goswami said, in order to extend the nuclear power industry's lifespan. But reprocessing is illegal today in the U.S.
"And the U.S. does not allow any other countries that is suspects will make nuclear weapons out of it to reprocess that uranium," noted Goswami.
The academic acknowledged he was accustomed to speaking mostly at scientific and research gatherings.
"This is the first time I'm speaking with people with a financial background," he told a group of several hundred investors.