US Needs More Options than Yucca Mountain for Nuclear Waste

, senior scientist | April 27, 2017, 5:31 pm EDT
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On Wednesday, I testified at a hearing of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing focused on the discussion draft of a bill entitled “The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017.”

Yucca Mountain (Source: White House)

The draft bill’s primary objective is to revive the program to build a geologic repository at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive wastes. The Obama administration cancelled the program in 2009, calling it “unworkable,” and the state of Nevada is bitterly opposed to it, but Yucca Mountain still has devoted advocates in Congress, including the chairman of the subcommittee, John Shimkus (R-IL).

UCS supports the need for a geologic repository for nuclear waste in the United States but doesn’t have a position on the suitability of the Yucca Mountain site. We don’t have the scientific expertise needed to make that judgement.

However, in my testimony, I expressed several concerns about the draft bill, including its focus on locating a repository only at Yucca Mountain and its proposal to weaken the NRC’s review standards for changes to repository design.

UCS believes that rigorous science must underlie the choice of any geologic repository, and that the US needs options in addition to Yucca Mountain, which has many unresolved safety issues. In addition, we believe that any legislation that revises the Nuclear Waste Policy Act must be comprehensive and include measures to enhance the safety and security of spent fuel at reactor sites—where it will be for at least several more decades. For example, we think it is essential to speed up the transfer of spent fuel from pools to dry storage casks.

Posted in: Nuclear Power Safety, Nuclear Terrorism Tags: , , , ,

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  • Diane

    Being de facto nuclear waste dumps without consent and the waste going nowhere, communities surrounding nuclear power reactors must demand spent fuel in the vulnerable pools be removed to secure hardened on-site storage. Cape Cod communities,14 towns in all, have a public advisory question on local ballots or town warrants calling for such: Public Advisory Question for the 2017 Spring Ballot
    To protect public health and safety, move spent fuel at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to secure dry casks as soon as possible.
    Whereas, the original design for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (PNPS) spent fuel pool was for 880 assemblies and now holds over 2,822 densely racked and tightly packed assemblies, and;
    Whereas, the PNPS spent fuel pool holds over 11 times the amount of cesium released at Chernobyl, and:
    Whereas, the MA Attorney General Office 2006 report cited an accident at PNPS could result in 24,000 latent cancers, $488 billion in damages, and contamination of hundreds of miles downwind, and;
    Whereas, 885 Boraflex panels, which prevent criticality and fire, will be susceptible to unacceptable levels of deterioration by September, 2017, and;
    Whereas, the PNPS spent fuel pool is vulnerable to terrorist and cyber attack, and;
    Whereas, citizens of the Town of ______________________ find this to be an unacceptable threat to our health and safety and must be resolved in the most timely manner.
    Therefore, Should the people of the Town of ______________________ direct the townʼs government to communicate with Governor Baker to employ all means available to ensure spent nuclear fuel generated by the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station be placed in secure dry casks as soon as technically feasible and consistent with the highest standards, ready to be moved to a permanent federal facility when available in order to protect the health, welfare, and economic interests of the Town of ________________________ and its inhabitants and visitors?

  • vlady47

    We need to STOP making the waste in the first place!
    If each state had to manage and store all the nuclear waste they created….nuclear energy wouldn’t be an option.

    • thumperpj10

      vlady47,

      Your comment are ridiculous. You would be weakening the nation if we did as you suggested. Are you aware that the majority of the Navy is powered by nuclear power? The need to understand what to do with it responsibly and safely is what needs to
      happen. More education on nuclear power and the oversight and regulations
      to the public needs to happen as well. People need to understand nuclear
      power, and quit being so afraid of it. Education and understanding is
      where this conversation needs to start. People need to become more
      educated about the subject, verses shooting it down and being scared of
      it.