Russia’s plan for disposing of its share of the plutonium involves a fast reactor, a variation on the fast breeder reactor design but without a breeding blanket. That alteration gives the power station the capability to destroy plutonium.
Operating this sort of fast reactor with weapons-grade plutonium, though, is a risk no one have has ever taken yet, but this is the plan stipulated in the Russian-American treaty, also known as the 123 Agreement.
‘This Is Going to Lead to Problems’
The Obama administration, on the other hand, prefers to fulfill its side of the disarmament treaty with a more time-tested method: The US share of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium will be used in traditional nuclear power plants. At the same time, though, the US will contribute at least $300 million (€240 million) to the construction of the new disarmament reactor at Beloyarsk.
“This is going to lead to problems!” says Yevgeny (name changed), who is involved in the construction of the new Beloyarsk reactor. “You shouldn’t build a nuclear reactor under time pressure, and certainly not such a complicated one!”
“A fast reactor is not your standard power plant,” he continues indignantly. “All it takes is one sloppily welded seam, and that’s that!” The reactor will be cooled not with water, but with liquid sodium, a liquid metal that ignites the moment it comes into contact with the air.
What makes the new reactor a particularly delicate case, though, is its fuel.
Of all the bequests of the atomic age, the heavy metal that takes its name from Pluto, god of the underworld, is considered the most dangerous. A nuclear chain reaction initiated with six kilograms (13 pounds) of the material over Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945, immediately killed 80,000 people. Breathing in just a few milligrams of plutonium dust is fatal to humans.
Vast amounts of this element, which almost never occurs naturally, now exist on Earth. Well more than 1,000 tons of the plutonium, which is one component of spent fuel from nuclear reactors, now sits in spent fuel pools and interim storage facilities, awaiting an indeterminate fate.
Read More From Source:Energy from the Bomb: Russia To Produce Electricity with Former Nukes" -This entry was posted on September 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm and is filed under EHS News