2nd International Workshop on Radiological Sciences and Applications (IWRSA)
March 16-18, 2005
Summary Report of Discussion Session 1A:
Peaceful versus Non-peaceful Use of Nuclear Technologies
Professor Heino Nitsche,
Presented March 17, 2005, 8:10 to 8:30 a.m.
It was suggested to not dispose the actinide waste but to burn it via breeder reactor technology.
Assistance was requested from IAEA for equipment to track sensitive materials in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan). Increased trafficking of nuclear material may become a future concern because this material may currently not be as securely protected as it should be.
The potential increase of nuclear power in developing countries may require regional or other nuclear waste disposal/control measures for less developed countries. Establishment of regional and international repositories for disposal of high-level nuclear wastes was discussed. This may be accompanied by political acceptance problems to dispose nuclear waste in specific countries. The Pangea proposal to dispose high-level nuclear waste in Western Australia was given as an example for this. The Australian population did not accept this proposal at all and accepted even the disposal of low-level nuclear waste only if it was disposed on an island away from the Australian main island. This brought the discussion to the subject that only economically more challenged countries may be willing to accept the waste because of certain economic benefits. The idea was discussed that in analogy to the carbon tracking regime where countries can buy and sell carbon credits, nuclear waste material could be handled in a similar fashion.
A delegate stated that the main problem of nuclear waste disposal is not a technological issue but a political one. The delegate suggested the use of underground cavities formed by nuclear weapons testing for nuclear waste disposal. It was suggested to propose a feasibility study in the form of a joint international demonstration project to study the technical, political, and sociological aspects of such a disposal concept. This international demonstration project should also suggest a specific site.
It was generally remarked that a large credibility gap exists for nuclear energy and waste. An urgent need exists to better educate populations on the subject to regain credibility. This was thought as difficult because it appears that intellectual leadership in this field is rapidly declining. Perhaps populations may only be willing accept the use of nuclear technologies once they experience the immediate consequences when these resources become unavailable. The energy crisis in California during the early 2000s was given as an example. Before the shortage of energy only 29% of the population accepted nuclear energy technology; whereas directly after experiencing the lack of energy and its consequences, the acceptance increased to 61%.
The benefits of the use of radioactivity need to be better disseminated among populations. So far the discussion is mainly focused on the disposal of nuclear waste and the so-called danger of nuclear energy and has a very negative impact. A more aggressive approach needs to be taken to inform populations about the many positive aspects of nuclear technology use, such as radio-pharmaceuticals, radiation treatments, radiology, avoidance of greenhouse gases, to name only a few. Generally, populations need to be more educated on risk, exposure and dose rate.
It was discussed that most of the populations do not understand that the major oil supplies come essentially from six countries. There was a discussion about the current oil reserves and the opinions about the subject varied substantially. New technologies such as coal liquification and the explorations of shale and oil sands may play an important role in future energy supplies.
In closing, it was remarked that we are not experts on sociological issues and that our goal is to provide technical and engineering solutions and their uses to assist policy makers and stake holders with their making of decision.