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80,000 TONS OF NUCLEAR WASTE ARE SITTING IN LIMBO via Futurity

Thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel are in temporary storage in 35 US states, with no permanent solution in the works. Experts now show how to end this status quo.

The United States government has worked for decades and spent tens of billions of dollars in search of a permanent resting place for the nation’s nuclear waste. Some 80,000 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and millions of gallons of high-level nuclear waste from defense programs sit in pools, dry casks, and large tanks at more than 75 sites throughout the country.

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CAUGHT IN A KNOT

Over the past four decades, the US nuclear waste program has suffered from continuing changes to the original Nuclear Waste Policy Act, a slow-to-develop and changing regulatory framework. Erratic funding, significant changes in policy with changing administrations, conflicting policies from Congress and the executive branch and—most important—inadequate public engagement have also blocked any progress.

“The US program is in an ever-tightening Gordian knot—the strands of which are technical, logistical, regulatory, legal, financial, social, and political—all caught in a web of agreements with states and communities, regulations, court rulings, and the congressional budgetary process,” the report says.

After describing the Sisyphean history of the US nuclear waste management and disposal program, the report makes recommendations all focused around a final goal: long-term disposal of highly radioactive waste in a mined, geologic repository.

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“Spent nuclear fuel stored above ground—either in pools or dry casks—is not a solution. These facilities will eventually degrade. And, if not monitored and cared for, they will contaminate our environment.”

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Source: Stanford University

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