The article, New nuclear plants vastly more dangerous: report (SP, May 31), that discusses Generation III reactor fuel wastes contains a great deal of misleading and irrelevant information.
It is well know that spent fuel from reactors that use enriched fuel, as opposed to reactors that don't (traditional Canadian Candu reactors) is more radioactive. However, it's important to recognize that there is much less of it on a unit electricity basis.
These two factors approximately balance one another -- a fact that has been known for decades.
The comparison of how many Lake Ontarios it would take to safely dilute radioactive spent fuel would be relevant only if one decides to dump the spent fuel into Lake Ontario. Leaving aside that spent fuel is a hard ceramic, the intention is to eventually deposit the spent fuel into deep geological repositories to keep it out of the food chain.
There are naturally occurring uranium deposits, such as the one at Cigar Lake in Saskatchewan, that are highly radioactive and have been intact for more than a billion years -- since before the Rocky Mountains were formed -- without contaminating local water supplies.
There is good reason to think that an engineered depository could do just as well.
Member, Society of Professional Engineers & Associates