Nuclear waste burial fund grows to $43 billion, but DOE has not buried an ounce of spent fuel via The Orange County Register

Radioactive waste still stuck at San Onofre and other reactors across the nation

A U.S. Department of Energy fund to pay for the eventual disposal of nuclear waste has been earning $1.5 billion in interest each year — totaling a whopping $43.4 billion in 2018 — even as millions of pounds of radioactive waste pile up all over America in want of a permanent home.

The DOE piggy bank, dubbed the Nuclear Waste Fund, is invested in securities and earmarked for permanent disposal of spent fuel generated by commercial reactors such as San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. The fund’s most recent audit shows its value actually is down from 2016’s $46 billion.

That much money can buy a lot of things — except, apparently, permanent disposal of the nation’s nuclear waste.


Nuclear future

The Nuclear Waste Fund was created in the last century, when nuclear power was viewed as the nation’s future. To encourage its development, the federal government passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, promising to accept and dispose of commercial nuclear fuel and high-level waste by Jan. 31, 1998.

In return, the utilities that owned the nuke plants would make quarterly payments into the disposal fund.

The utilities held up their end of the bargain — pumping about $750 million a year into the fund — but the DOE did not. And nearly 40 years on, it has not accepted an ounce of commercial nuclear waste for permanent disposal.


But fierce opponents in New Mexico vow to keep the nation’s nuclear waste out of their backyards.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the final volumes of its Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report and concluded that a deep geologic repository there would comply with safety and environmental standards once it’s permanently sealed.

But “scientific confidence about the concept of deep geologic disposal has turned out to be difficult to apply to specific sites,” the Congressional Research Service said. “Every high-level waste site that has been proposed by DOE and its predecessor agencies has faced allegations or discovery of unacceptable flaws, such as water intrusion or earthquake vulnerability, that could release unacceptable levels of radioactivity into the environment.

“Much of the problem results from the inherent uncertainty involved in predicting waste site performance for the 1 million years that nuclear waste is to be isolated under current regulations.”

Read more at Nuclear waste burial fund grows to $43 billion, but DOE has not buried an ounce of spent fuel

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