US to Offer Nuclear Waste Technology to Other Countries via Voice of America

The U.S. Department of Energy’s nuclear security office is developing a project to help other countries deal with nuclear waste. The information comes from two sources who spoke to the Reuters news agency. They asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The sources say the plan aims to keep the United States competitive against other countries that are developing their own waste technology. For example, both Russia and France offer services to take care of nuclear waste.


What would the technology do?

The unnamed sources say the technology could involve crushing, heating or sending an electric current through nuclear waste to reduce its size.

The machinery to do so would be put in a “black box” the size of a shipping container. It would be sent to other countries with nuclear energy programs; however, it would remain owned and operated by the United States, the sources said.


Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter banned nuclear waste reprocessing in 1977. The reprocessing opens pure amounts of uranium and plutonium, both of which could be used to make nuclear bombs.

NNSA spokesperson Dov Schwartz said the plans under consideration do not involve reprocessing. But he did not say what technologies could be used.


The government of U.S. President Donald Trump has made promoting nuclear technology abroad a high priority. The U.S. Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, visited Saudi Arabia this month for talks on a nuclear energy deal with the kingdom. And the American business Westinghouse hopes to sell nuclear power technology to countries from Saudi Arabia to India.

But a top arms control officer during the Obama administration questions the direction of the Trump government. Thomas Countryman said the U.S. should improve its ability to get rid of its own nuclear waste before helping other countries.


A nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists also expressed some doubt about the NNSA plan. Edwin Lyman said NNSA should not be focused so much on reducing the size of nuclear waste. Instead, it should be concerned about the dangers of nuclear waste that make it hard to store.

Lyman said even a small amount of nuclear waste gives off radioactivity and heat. It “remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years,” he said.

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