by Karl Denninger
I am shocked at the tiny number of people who know about Carter’s biggest disaster when it comes to US policy; his banning, by Executive Order, the reprocessing of commercial nuclear fuel in the United States.
The US civilian nuclear program was always a dual-use program; the military wanted bombs, and civilians want electricity. We abandoned the LFTR technology despite its demonstrably superior safety profile starting with the lack of a requirement for high pressure containment as a direct result of the fact that it is incompatible with dual use. That is, the byproducts that naturally come from the use of thorium “poison” the technology’s use for atomic weapons; while this can be worked around at extreme cost nobody in their right mind would promote such a dual use methodology. Thus the US (and in fact world-wide) adoption of the Uranium/Plutonium fuel cycle.
That fuel cycle has multiple serious safety problems, with the most-serious long-term ones not being operational but rather with disposal of waste. All nuclear reactors produce what are called transuranic elements in normal operation and these have extremely long half-lives in their decay chains which render them dangerous for thousands to even hundreds of thousands of years. Needless to say no civilization on Earth has ever survived that long, so the stability of such waste is a monstrous problem.