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BROWN: What to do with nuclear waste? via app

“Oh No! Now what do we do with the waste!”

There seems to be a collective gasp among elected officials as they confront a practically impossible task — what to do with the tons of highly radioactive waste scattered across the country after almost 50 years of nuclear power generation.

We are entering the Age of Nuclear Waste.

As for the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor in Lacey, there are not any good choices or clear cut answers about long-term storage for the 750 metric tons of radioactive pollution sitting at the site. The best alternative is making the least bad and most morally responsible choice.

The radioactive fuel assemblies sitting in an overhead pool at Oyster Creek are deadly nuclear pollution that will remain lethal for hundreds of thousands of years. The technology simply does not exist to neutralize its lethality or to deal with its long-term storage.

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It’s teeth-grindingly hard to decide. A bill introduced by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, calls for interim storage at a federally designated site until a permanent repository is found, and Republicans favor Yucca Mountain. But, Yucca Mountain was deemed geologically unfit for the multi-millenial task because it is located on a volcanic fault line. Even though it is situated in a desert, water filtration was discovered raising the possibility that the steel storage casks for spent fuel assemblies could corrode and radioactivity could escape and enter groundwater supplies.

Interim storage means that tons of nuclear waste would be barged through ports, trucked on highways or moved by rail for thousands of miles through heavily populated urban and suburban areas creating a huge public safety risk. That risk should be taken only once, not multiplied in an industry shell game that would be used to justify the illogical and callous continuation of deadly waste-making for corporate gain.

Keeping the waste on site in casks has its own set of inherent problems. Foremost are the NRC-approved casks, which are being used at Oyster Creek, that some believe are inferior to those used in Europe. Rather than being up to 20 inches thick, the NRC-approved casks are a half inch to five-eighths inches thick. Among other problems, they do not meet American Society of Mechanical Engineer (ASME) safety standards, they are difficult to monitor for radiation leaks and thin interior cracks cannot be repaired. To this day, there are no approved plans in place for dealing with failing canisters or failing fuel assemblies at decommissioned facilities.

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The best-case scenario for Oyster Creek would include bringing the overstuffed fuel pool to low density and storing the waste in thick casks in a hardened setting. Hardened on site storage refers to covering and obscuring them in a berm as Germany has done, rather than the current practice of lining them up like bowling pins along the property bordering Route 9.

Read more at BROWN: What to do with nuclear waste?

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