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Nuclear Waste Disposal: An Issue That Won’t Heal by Itself


nuclear waste disposalShockingly, of the 437 nuclear power reactors on the globe in 31 countries, none possess high-level nuclear waste disposal facilities. That’s because none exist. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Nuclear waste is dangerous for up to one million years, and countries across the world are producing more nuclear waste, so why is there no way to dispose of it?

South Korea, India, and China are looking to expand their existing nuclear power programs immensely. According to the World Nuclear Association, 45 countries that are not currently using nuclear power are giving it serious consideration.

Over the decades, policy making, or lack thereof, has interfered greatly in making strides to develop any safe repository. West German politicians tried in 1976, the US attempted it in 1987, and a host of other countries have attempted to put in place a way to safely dispose of nuclear waste.

The UK was posed to open a nuclear waste disposal repository in Cumbria in January, but the Cumbria County Council ultimately vetoed the plan, concerned it would interfere with tourism in the famed Lake District.

In the 1980s, state-wide opposition in Tennessee shut down an interim facility planned in Oak Ridge. In the 1990s, a recognized Native American sovereign nation, the Skull Valley Band Of The Goshute, volunteered to host an interim facility on its Utah reservation. However, after more than 15 years of going round and round with the state, the utilities working with the Goshute finally rescinded their offer.

Most recently, during the Obama administration, a community near Yucca Mountain has volunteered to host a nuclear waste disposal facility. After much politicking by the Obama administration and a host of supporters, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval informed officials that the state of Nevada will never consent to a repository.

Currently, Sweden and Finland, often considered bastions of political cooperation, are finalizing the opening of the world’s first nuclear waste repositories.

So why this shortsightedness? If nuclear reactors are more and more prevalent and their numbers are growing by leaps and bounds, why is nothing being done to discuss the massive amounts of nuclear waste being generated?

Yes, it is technically complex and a political hot potato, but in this case, volunteer communities need an independent, technically savvy organization that they trust to address concerns and interpret the scientific results. Once a site is deemed safe and suitable, politics must move aside and a solution must be implemented.

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  1. When the Japanese government used thbide wrecks of the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors as an excuse to forbid the restarts of virtually all the other power reactors in that country, it saw its income increase 4.8 percent. Getting the royalties on $16/MMBTU liquefied natural gas, rather than $0.25/MMBTU uranium, was a huge windfall.
    And that’s one powerful reason why governments do not dispose of nuclear waste: such disposal eliminates a powerful argument in favour of their continuing to receive their accustomed oil and gas money. Another is that it is doing no harm, and has no plausible prospects of ever doing any harm, where it is. Some nuclear people near me dramatized this on the Facebook page of one of them at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152583249985451


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