NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Where to Put Spent U.S. Nuclear Fuel

August 23, 2011

Washington still lacks a viable long-term plan for the radioactive waste produced by its commercial nuclear reactors.  That inaction is costing taxpayers billions of dollars, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has several nuclear-focused locations that are excellent candidates -- including Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and Hanford Site in Washington state.  Another site, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, is already being used by the federal government for disposal of radioactive waste generated by the Defense Department.

  • Using those sites for interim storage of nuclear waste will give Congress plenty of time to either open Yucca Mountain or find another disposal site.
  • Indeed, one of the seven recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future was the prompt development of "one or more consolidated interim storage facilities."
  • The DOE-owned locations already have security and safety systems.
  • The workers at these sites have years, even decades, of experience with nuclear materials. The communities near the labs are nuclear-savvy, and want to keep the jobs that the sites provide.
  • In addition, the sites are plenty big. For instance, WIPP covers 16 square miles.

Once at the federal sites, the waste could be stored indefinitely above ground in steel casks.  When -- or rather, if -- the president or Congress finally muster the political will to do something with the waste, it could be moved to Yucca Mountain or another location, says Bryce.

Source: Robert Bryce, "Where to Put Spent U.S. Nuclear Fuel," Politico, August 18, 2011.

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