Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nuclear Waste Disposal

After several years of work, the President's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (a highly respected group of nuclear professionals, legislators, and community experts) has released its report on the future of High Level (Spent Fuel) Waste disposal in the US.

In spite of the fact that $15 billion has already been spent on Yucca Mountain and the temporary storage of these wastes since 1998, the group concurs that "America's nuclear waste management program is an impasse." This is due mainly to enormous technical problems, inadequate geologic conditions, and many political issues. Regardless of our wants, wishes, dreams, and promises, the long-term storage of nuclear wastes has eluded scientists since the '40's, and will continue to do so far into the future. Buried on page 100 of the report is a most powerful statement: "…no currently available or reasonably foreseeable reactor and fuel cycle technology developments—including advances in reprocess and recycle technologies—have the potential to fundamentally alter the waste management challenge this nation confronts over at least the next several decades, if not longer."

Setting aside the issues of human safety, environmental impact, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and geopolitics, I raise the more current ethical and moral question of economics, and what we are passing on to our children and to many, many future generations.

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