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USA’s radioactive waste pile-up is ‘constipating’ the nuclear industry

constipationBeyond Yucca Mountain: The present impasse and uncertain future of nuclear waste storage, SNL  By Andrew Coffman Smith, October 28, 2015

“If we don’t clean up the legacy of the past, there won’t be a nuclear future,”declared Mike Simpson, Idaho Congressman and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, during an Oct. 27 panel discussion on the issue….Thirty-three years after Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and several years after the defunding of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage project, America has yet to find a permanent home for its nuclear waste, and a panel of experts said the future of nuclear storage lay with consenting communities.

Simpson said not having a solution for the long term storage of nuclear waste in the U.S. is “constipating” the nuclear energy sector…..

While the House continues to include funding for Yucca Mountain in budget proposals every year, the Senate has instead followed the recommendations of a Blue Ribbon Commission set up in 2010 by President Barack Obama and examined alternatives to Yucca Mountain using a community consent-based approach, said Simpson…..

Simpson said the current refurbishing of New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, has led to a buildup of nuclear waste across the country at the expense of states because the facility cannot receive any more waste until the construction is completed. Simpson said that he expects that a surface facility will be built at WIPP to store the waste until the underground storage facilities at WIPP reopens to store nuclear waste in its deep geological repository.

Simpson also said the challenges faced in getting WIPP’s “relatively small” facility operating gives him great pause as to what will happen when the decision is made to operate the larger waste treatment plant in Hanford, Washington.

“We have to convince the American people that you can clean up this stuff that we have been doing for the last 50 years and the biggest challenge we face and the most eminent threat we face is probably at Hanford,” Simpson said.

Simpson said a third storage site that is in trouble is the Savannah River mixed oxide fuel facility, or MOX, in South Carolina that the U.S. Department of Energy is seeking to shut down. The DOE is seeking to have MOX’s uranium down blended and stored at WIPP or another location. Simpson said the problem with MOX is that the U.S. has an agreement with Russia that requires the existence of MOX and the support of both Russia and New Mexico is needed to transport the nuclear waste at MOX to WIPP…..

One of the things that we heard really pretty consistently across the country was a lack of confidence that the federal government was able or intended to live up to the commitments that it’s already made,” said Brailsford. “Once the waste is somewhere, that ‘somewhere’ has lost a lot of its bargaining power so how are you even going to hold the federal government’s feet to the fire to live up to what it has committed to?”

October 31, 2015 - Posted by | business and costs, USA, wastes

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