NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nuclear Waste Report A Waste?

February 16, 1996

Experts are calling a $59 million Department of Energy report on disposal of nuclear waste worthless.

  • The report -- which was supposed to provide guidance to decision-makers -- was also supposed to have taken three years to complete, but took six years instead.
  • Although it was originally estimated to cost taxpayers $8 million, it wound up costing more than seven times that amount.
  • The project was so poorly executed, according to insiders, it had to be scaled back repeatedly, and as a decision-making tool it is worthless.

Defenders say it has produced useful data for additional studies, but the extra studies -- which were supposed to have been part of the initial project -- will now cost more millions to perform.

Why did the study fail? In part because it was awarded to an inexperienced manager. Mainly though, it failed simply because the task is overwhelming.

  • Currently, the DOE stores 2,700 tons of solid, high-level radioactive waste in vast coffins.
  • Another 105 million gallons of liquid waste are stored in 177 vast tanks, 88 of which are leaking.
  • The DOE spends $4.2 billion a year just to stabilize and maintain the stocks.
  • Permanent disposal of these stocks and millions of additional tons of material will take 70 years and cost at least $230 billion -- if we can figure out how to neutralize it and where to put it.

Source: Editorial, "Botched Nuclear Report a Study in Waste," USA Today, February 16, 1996.


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