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USA govt moves towards getting an interim storage for nuclear wastes

The feds have collected more than $44 billion for a permanent nuclear waste dump — here’s why we still don’t have one, CNBC, DEC 18 2021    KEY POINTS

  • The federal government has more than $44 billion collected from energy customers since the 1980s specifically to be spent on a permanent nuclear waste disposal in the United States.
  • Currently, nuclear waste is mostly stored in dry casks on the locations of current and former nuclear power plants around the country.
  • On Nov. 30, the Office of Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy took a preliminary step towards establishing an interim repository for nuclear waste. Some see this as a reason for optimism, others as kicking the can down the road.

The federal government has a fund of $44.3 billion earmarked for spending on a permanent nuclear waste disposal facility in the United States.

It began collecting money from energy customers for the fund in the 1980s, and the money is now earning about $1.4 billion in interest each year.

But plans to build a site in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, were scuttled by state and federal politics, and there’s been a lack of political will to find other solutions. The result is that the U.S. does not have the infrastructure to dispose of radioactive nuclear waste in a deep geologic repository, where it can slowly lose its radioactivity over the course of thousands of years without causing harm………………………………………….

After 2014, the federal government was forced to stop collecting money for the Nuclear Waste Fund because of a legal ruling. Owners and operators of nuclear power plants had challenged Department of Energy’s collection of fees, arguing that ratepayers should not be paying into a fund when the United States had no viable options for where the used fuel permanent disposal should go.

Amid all the stops and starts, the money in the Nuclear Waste Fund has been put back into the general fund and is being used for other purposes, Frank Rusco of the Government Accountability Office says. To use the funds for their original purpose would require new authorization and appropriation by Congress, he said.

“This will potentially cause a difficulty in getting a repository built,” Rusco said.

Since the federal government has not established a permanent repository for its radioactive nuclear waste, it’s had to pay utility companies to store it themselves. Currently, nuclear waste is mostly stored in dry casks on the locations of current and former nuclear power plants around the country. So far, the system is working, and in 2014, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the lead oversight body for the industry, has said that current storage technology would be sufficient for 100 years……………………

As of Sept. 30, the government has paid $9 billion to utility companies for their interim storage costs and the Department of Energy’s Agency Finance Report estimates it will cost another $30.9 billion until a permanent waste disposal option is completed in the United States.

hat estimate could prove to be low, Rusco said.

However, the tide may be turning back toward finding longer-term solutions.

On Nov. 30, the Office of Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy put out a formal “request for information” for a temporary, but consolidated, nuclear waste storage in the U.S.

Unlike a permanent storage facility, which involves digging deep into the ground, a temporary facility would simply keep all the dry casks together in one place, as opposed to distributed around the country. In some cases, the local nuclear plants have been completely disassembled — but the waste is still stored on site. Consolidating it would at least save on costs.

December 20, 2021 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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