NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nuclear Waste Policy Needs Reform

October 1, 2014

As federal regulations lead to the closure of coal plants, the United States must find new ways to power its electric grid. Nuclear energy, writes Katie Tubb and Jack Spencer of the Heritage Foundation, is an inexpensive and reliable power source, yet government action has impeded its growth.

According to Tubb and Spencer, Nuclear waste management is the biggest problem facing the development of nuclear power. They explain the history behind waste disposal:

  • Congress granted the Department of Energy authority over collection and disposal of nuclear waste in 1982.
  • Congress planned to deposit waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The plan ran behind schedule.
  • In 2010, President Obama ordered an end to the Yucca Mountain disposal program, despite having poured $15 billion of taxpayer funding into the project.
  • This decision left facilities with more than 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste sitting in storage, waiting for the Department of Energy to collect it.
  • Many nuclear plant license approvals were halted because there was no set policy on waste collection.

According to the authors, the government should remove itself from the nuclear waste sector altogether, giving facilities control over managing their own waste and allowing private companies to develop innovative ways to deal with the problem. The government, say Tubb and Spencer, should focus on licensing, while allowing the market to develop new methods of nuclear waste management. A clear method of waste disposal, combined with a reliable regulatory environment, will allow the nuclear energy industry to grow.

Source: Katie Tubb and Jack Spencer, "Green Energy and Red Tape," Heritage Foundation, September 29, 2014. 


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