Collect and concentrate

By Ian Laidlaw, Greensabre Program Director

Thoughts on the philosophy of waste disposal

The UK Government announced this week that it will put money into looking at carbon capture and storage (CCS) under the North Sea.
The thing to consider for the future is that the current approach of societies to waste disposal of ‘Dilute and Disperse’ is coming to an end, and the approach is moving to ‘Collect and Concentrate’.
This is, of course, on top of the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ mantra.
When looking at the real risks of Nuclear Power, everyone tends to point to waste risks.
The Nuclear Power Industry has always followed the ‘Collect and Concentrate’ approach, and the long term disposal solutions are known, even if some societies do not seem to want to enact them. Nuclear has always avoided gaseous waste products.
CCS is coming into being as societies face up to the effects of ‘Diluting and Dispersing ‘  waste gasses from carbon combustion.  
More and more, people are considering the risks of nuclear in relative terms, as the consequences of following the path of carbon combustion as an energy source without understanding the long term consequences.
It is self evident that Nuclear Wastes are hazardous. The difference is that these are ‘collected and concentrated’ and are required to be managed as a ‘societal’ level risk.
Until now, carbon combustion has been a company, or individual level risk. 
I was once part of a team hosting a conference on Nuclear Waste. At break I was debated on waste risk by a cigarette smoking activist. I had to point out that the 100% real risk of his smoking habit was his early death, the risks from Nuclear Industry, including waste, was infinitesimally smaller that the risk he was prepared to accept from cigarettes. 
Including SMRs in your country’s energy matrix, is not a simple or easy decision. It does need careful thought and expert help.  Also people need to be consulted as part of the decision process.
Finding unbiased advice and correct facts, in the correct context, is a start.