But here is the unintended side result - there are now huge numbers of “spent” fuel rods with no place for their long-term storage, which continue to deteriorate their containment units, and present another hazard, if some solution is not found.
I know, it would have been a problem anyway, with or without the additional fissionable material obtained from the decommissioning of the Russian nuclear arsenal. But we have all this fissile element lying around,why not put it to good use?
I believe I have touched on the subject of molten-salt thorium nuclear reactors as a means to REPLACE the U-238 fueled nuclear reactors, with a twofold advantage, one of which is that the reaction cannot proceed to a “runaway” surge, causing something like a “China syndrome” (not actually possible with the existing design of any nuclear reactor), and secondly, as a much more efficient way to “burn-up” the existing stockpile of “spent” fuel rods now accumulating. Cut and paste, if necessary:
This provides a good basic understanding of what is involved in getting a thorium-based nuclear atomic pile up and running.
Jimmy Carter put us in the predicament of spent fuel rods left in spent fuel pools indefinitely due to his executive order banning the reprocessing of spent civilian fuel. We had a chance to have that overturned upon the successful completion of the West Valley Demonstration Project, which used the same vitrification technologies used by the French. From a technical standpoint, the spent fuel should spend just a limited time for some of the shorter lived isotopes to decay. As in at most a month. At that time, the fuel rods can be shipped for reprocessing, even if the cask needs heavy shielding. There is still a lot of burnable fuel left in the fuel rods, since only a portion of the fissile material can be burnt at a time due to the neutron capture cross section of the fission fractions. This goes beyond xenon, which has a high cross section, but is short lived.
The thorium molten salt reactors is not a new concept, the idea has been around since the early 1960’s if not late 1950’s. I suspect one of the hurdles at the time was metallurgy for handling the molten fluoride salts (and maybe the uranium lobby). India has been a major proponent of this technology, since they have large reserves of thorium. The actual fissile material is U233 which is bred from the thorium - but it does not make good weapons material.
There would have been the same number of spent fuel rods, without this program.
... with no place for their long-term storage,
There is a perfectly good place for long term storage that we have already spent billions of dollars constructing. It's called Yucca Mountain and the only reason it is not operating is corrupt fear-mongering politicians like Harry Reid.
... which continue to deteriorate their containment units,
Can you site even one example where the interim storage units are "deteriorating?" I agree, they are not a solution, but they are not deteriorating either.