Colorado and nation face 70,000-ton nuclear waste burden via The Denver Post

The government has paid utilities $4 billion as court-ordered compensation for storing nuclear waste

The federal government stepped up efforts to deal with the nation’s growing, heavily guarded stockpiles of nuclear waste Tuesday, convening westerners in Denver to search for a path to a locally accepted site somewhere for deep burial.

That radioactive waste — 70,000 tons, increasing by 2,000 tons a year — comes from nuclear power plants that provide one-fifth of the electricity Americans use, twice the share the wind power industry expects to provide by 2020.  More nuclear waste comes from nuclear weapons. Decades of failure to find a central disposal site has backed up spent fuel at 99 commercial plants and 14 shut-down plants, including Fort St. Vrain north of Denver, and forced the government to pay utilities $4 billion as court-ordered compensation.

“It makes sense to deal with this now instead of kicking the can down the road,” acting Assistant Energy Secretary for Nuclear Energy John Kotek said in an interview before Tuesday’s session.


Tuesday’s forum in Denver, drawing about 50 participants ranging from former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan to anti-nuclear group members, followed sessions in Chicago, Atlanta and Sacramento. After a final session July 21 in Minneapolis, energy officials said they will launch a process for winning community support.

Local resistance to nuclear waste remains fierce. The recent plans to drill an exploratory bore hole three miles deep under North Dakota were scuttled this year as residents objected. Federal energy officials say they’re now looking at bore hole sites in South Dakota to test geological conditions.

“There’s no waste involved. … It is just to determine if it would be feasible,” DOE spokeswoman Alisa Trunzo said.


Guarding the spent fuel at 113 locations is expensive. Energy officials said waste is stored in different ways at each site and eventually would have to be re-packaged for safety. Federal regulators have said the waste in Colorado can stay until at least 2030, or until a permanent disposal facility is built.

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