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  • What Should We Do About Nuclear Waste?

    The United States has 104 commercial nuclear reactors providing about 20% of the nation’s electricity, but throughout their lifetimes, they’ve accumulated about 58,000 tons of nuclear waste. They produce about 2,000 tons annually.

    Although recent developments are promising, Yucca Mountain has been a political boondoggle for decades. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 set January 31, 1998, as the deadline for the federal government to begin receiving used fuel. The result has been billions of dollars in taxpayer liability. Furthermore, Yucca Mountain’s statutory limit has been set at 70,000 tons when, in fact, it could hold 120,000 tons or more. Yet, even with a 120,000 ton limit, if nuclear power production increased by 1.8 percent annually after 2010, Yucca would be full by 2030.

    It’s clear reform is needed, but a number of questions need to be answered. Should the federal government remain responsible for waste management? Is privatization the right approach? Or is the best way forward some combination of both?

    The Heritage Foundation will host an event Tuesday, June 24th at 9:30am to discuss these issues. The Department of Energy has requested that industry help to inform a decision on the potential path forward for technologies and facilities associated with domestic used fuel management. Industry responded with a number of recommendations including one to develop a new organizational approach to waste management. Furthermore, The Heritage Foundation will introduce its plan to completely privatize the management of used nuclear fuel.

    The event is open to the public. Please RSVP here.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to What Should We Do About Nuclear Waste?

    1. Frank L., Jenison, M says:

      How about ANWAR!!!

    2. Jim Baird (Subductiv says:

      The University of Utah Center for Public Policy and Administration stated in a December 12, 2005, article “Nuclear Waste Summary” “The subductive waste disposal method is the most viable means of disposing of radioactive waste. Subduction refers to a process in which one tectonic plate slides beneath another while being reabsorbed into the Earth's mantle. The Subductive Waste Disposal Method involves the formation of a radioactive waste repository in a subducting plate where the waste will be absorbed along with the plate and dispersed through the mantle. The most accessible site is on the ocean floor at a point above where subducting plates meet and, once filled, the repositories would be virtually inaccessible. This method would prevent radioactive waste from mixing with the water table, provide inaccessibility to eliminated weapons material, remove radioactive waste completely from its threatening position, and be safe for marine life."

      In the December 25, 2001 Current Science article, Radioactive waste: The problem and its management, K. R. Rao declares the Subductive Waste Disposal Method "is the state-of-the-art in nuclear waste disposal technology. It is the single viable means of disposing radioactive waste that ensures non return of the relegated material to the biosphere. At the same time, it affords inaccessibility to eliminated weapons material. The principle involved is the removal of the material from the biosphere faster than it can return. It is considered that 'the safest, the most sensible, the most economical, the most stable long-term, the most environmentally benign, the most utterly obvious places to get rid of nuclear waste, high-level waste or low-level waste is in the deep oceans that cover 70% of the planet".

      The state-of-the-art and most viable solution to the problem is probably a good place to starting looking for an answer.

    3. K. McMahan, TN says:

      Reprocessing of spent nuclear reactor fuel is the most sensible solution. This option was taken off the table by President Carter, but it is an important step in the nuclear fuel cycles in France and Japan. The technology is very well known, not terribly complex, and has a long history of success. It reduces tremendously the volume of waste that needs to be disposed – Yucca Mountain's storage capacity would suffice for decades upon decades past 2030. It addition, reprocessing recovers valuable, reusable fuel. Physical security (terrorism) has been floated as a reason against reprocessing, but we know how to protect other valuable assets, what makes nuclear fuel any different?

      The federal government needs to keep some oversight of the nuclear waste treatment and disposal process simply because of the nature of the material. The lessons of West Valley, NY, should not be lost in history. That facility privately reprocessed spent fuel for a few years, but it was poorly operated and poorly regulated. Technicalities (seismic requirements in the wake of Three Mile Island) prevented it from restarting after a planned shutdown to expand capacity. Then came Carter's ban. A better public-private system should surround any new venture, and new, better regulations than were in existence in 1978 should be developed and implemented to ensure success. And somehow – somehow – somehow government needs to learn how to make long-term commitments rather than changing course every time the wind blows. We have committed to Social Security (for good or ill). Why not energy security via the nuclear fuel cycle?

    4. Nitin, Mumbai, India says:

      Civilizations energy demands have scaled up so much that now they are looking at most dreadful source of energy.. the Nuclear Energy. For no right disposal way in sight we should restrict ourselves from adoptiing it until we find a right solution which even can be the "(Subductive Waste Disposal Method)" stated above. But My advise is first test the solution and when we are doubly sure about it ..go for it.. but lets not commit ourselves to Nuclear energy …we are leaving a deadly recipe for our children. Think that all the countries have been trying to find the right answer for disposing it of for the last 5 decades ..but no feasible solution has come till now… Rather people are coming with funny solutions and sometime even are very sure about preserving the nuclear waster sites for more than 1000 years.. God..

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