By Lindsay Krall and Allison Macfarlane
Nuclear energy-producing nations are almost universally experiencing delays in the commissioning of the geologic repositories needed for the long-term isolation of spent fuel and other high-level wastes from the human environment. Despite these problems, expert panels have repeatedly determined that geologic disposal is necessary, regardless of whether advanced reactors to support a “closed” nuclear fuel cycle become available. Still, advanced reactor developers are receiving substantial funding on the pretense that extraordinary waste management benefits can be reaped through adoption of these technologies. Here, the authors describe why molten salt reactors and sodium-cooled fast reactors – due to the unusual chemical compositions of their fuels – will actually exacerbate spent fuel storage and disposal issues. Before these reactors are licensed, policymakers must determine the implications of metal- and salt-based fuels vis a vis the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the Continued Storage Rule.