Breaking America's Nuclear Waste Impasse

Breaking America's Nuclear Waste Impasse

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Drums of nuclear waste
July 9, 2019

Former NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane discusses four decades of failed efforts to find a permanent disposal solution for America’s civilian nuclear waste and new thinking, based on successful disposal efforts in the military and overseas, that could lead to a workable solution.

There are 90,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste in temporary storage at sites across the United States. The waste is the responsibility of the federal government, which nearly four decades ago entered into an agreement with the nuclear power industry to collect and permanently dispose of spent reactor fuel. Yet today, after pouring billions of dollars into the mothballed Yucca Mountain disposal facility in Nevada, a solution to the country’s nuclear waste problem appears as distant as ever, while the nation’s nuclear waste stockpile continues to grow.

Allison Macfarlane, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, explores the challenges, ranging from safety concerns to politics, that have foiled efforts to find a nuclear waste solution. She also discusses some new thinking, based in successful efforts to develop disposal abroad, that might make it possible to reach a permanent solution here in the US.

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