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Options for USA nuclear radioactive trash policy

Forging a Path Forward on U.S. Nuclear Waste Management: Options for Policy Makers, Columbia University,  BY MATT BOWEN |JANUARY 28, 2021

“……..A new report, part of wider work on nuclear energy at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, explains how the United States reached its current stalemate over nuclear waste disposal. It then examines productive approaches in other countries and a few domestic ones that could guide U.S. policy makers through options for improving the prospects of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste disposal going forward, including the following:

  • Create a new organization whose sole mission is nuclear waste management (and whose approach is consent-based). Since the 1970s, reports have noted that a single-purpose organization would have a number of advantages over a program residing within Department of Energy, which has multiple missions and competing priorities. Accordingly, Congress could pass legislation to create a separate nuclear waste management organization that has full access to needed funding and employs a consent-based approach to achieve greater support from state and local communities for the siting of facilities.

    • Improve the funding structure of the U.S. nuclear waste program. 
      The program was supposed to be self-financing, with owners of nuclear power plants paying into a Nuclear Waste Fund that would cover the costs of management and disposal. However, due in part to budget laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s, a lack of access to needed funding has arisen. If the first option of creating a new organization is not achievable in the near-term, Congress could at least improve the waste program’s funding structure.

    • Pursue disposal of U.S. defense waste first. There could be greater public acceptance for the disposal of defense-related waste over commercial waste due to the national security missions involved and patriotic sensibilities. Momentum in one area of waste management could lead to the overall program’s advancement, as a successful endeavor for defense waste disposal would inform and encourage commercial waste efforts. Nuclear waste from the defense sector also has some technical characteristics — the inventory being bounded, smaller, cooler, and with less potential for reuse — that may argue for its disposal ahead of power plant spent nuclear fuel.

      • Prepare for a large-scale transportation program. To date, the transportation of nuclear waste has been very safe. However, there are additional steps the federal government could take to prepare for the eventual larger-scale transportation campaign of spent nuclear fuel to either a consolidated interim storage site or a geologic repository. Such options include amending the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow states to recover the full costs of planning and operations for transportation across their borders and ensuring an independent regulator has authority over the transportation regime to strengthen public confidence in the program.

      • Update generic regulatory standards for future geologic repositories. There are two sets of U.S. regulatory standards for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste disposal: one for Yucca Mountain and one for all other sites. The Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Department of Energy could resolve inconsistencies between regulations and ensure that new generic regulations for future disposal facilities are flexible enough to cover novel approaches (e.g., deep boreholes).

        • Negotiate an agreement with Nevada on Yucca Mountain. The U.S. government could pursue, concurrent with new siting efforts, negotiating an agreement with Nevada to investigate, for example, the disposal of a more limited waste inventory at Yucca Mountain. Nye County, which is where the site is located, sees a disposal facility there as potentially safe and is interested in the associated economic development. Nevada’s long-standing concerns regarding the project would have to be addressed to gain broader public support within the state.

        Read the full report here

January 29, 2021 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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