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As Nuclear Waste Piles Up, Private Companies Pitch New Ways To Store It via WBEZ 91.5


Congress is once again debating how to dispose of the country’s growing inventory of nuclear waste. Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso is proposing legislationthat would jump start licensing hearings for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada. The Trump administration also is asking Congress for money to resume work on that decades old project.

But that may not end local opposition or a longstanding political stalemate. And in the meantime, nuclear plants are running out of room to store spent fuel.


Running out of room
The Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in South Central Pennsylvania illustrates the problem. It’s one of 80 sites, across dozens of states, where nearly 80,000 metric tons of waste from power plants is stored where it was generated, at taxpayer expense.

Spent fuel removed from the Peach Bottom reactor is first stored in racks in a big pool. It’s surrounded by a bright yellow plastic barrier and signs that read Caution: Radiation Area.


The spent fuel stays here for seven to 10 years while it cools.

Once it’s safe to remove the spent fuel from the pool, it’s stored outside in white, metal casks that look like big hot water heaters. They are lined up on a concrete base, behind razor wire and against a hillside near the power plant.


“When the opportunity comes for these to be sent somewhere else than these will double as a shipping container as well,” he says.

Private companies propose their own storage plans

As the waste piles up, private companies are stepping in with their own solutions for the nation’s radioactive spent fuel. One is proposing a temporary storage site in New Mexico, and another is seeking a license for a site in Texas.


“Institutions go away,” says Edwin Lyman, acting director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “There’s no guarantee the owner will still be around for the duration of time when that waste remains dangerous, which is tens of hundreds of thousands of years.”

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