Managing Nuclear Waste

January 28, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 4
Should spent fuel be stored at Yucca Mountain?
By Jennifer Weeks


Spent nuclear fuel is moved to a storage area (AP Photo/The Daily Progress/Bill Clark)
Spent nuclear fuel is moved to a storage area at Dominion Virginia Power's North Anna Nuclear Generating Station, which supplies electricity to Richmond and Northern Virginia. Nuclear plants around the country store such radioactive waste on-site because the U.S. does not have a nuclear waste repository. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress/Bill Clark)

Thousands of tons of lethal nuclear waste from civilian power plants and military sites are stored at more than 100 sites around the country. But the federal government doesn't have a long-term plan today for managing nuclear waste. In the 1980s, Congress decided to build a single underground repository for spent fuel and highly radioactive defense waste in the southern Nevada desert. But work on the Yucca Mountain complex has faced political and technical problems and was canceled by President Obama, who advocates a new storage solution. Cancellation has created uncertainty for the nuclear power industry and for states where military waste is stored. It also is forcing utilities to pay to store used nuclear fuel at reactors — costs they pass on to customers. Some utilities have won multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the federal government, and more cases are pending. Obama supports expanding nuclear power as a clean energy strategy, but if the waste problem isn't solved, new reactors may be a hard sell in many states.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Nuclear Power
Jun. 10, 2011  Nuclear Power
Jan. 28, 2011  Managing Nuclear Waste
Jan. 2007  Nuclear Proliferation
Mar. 10, 2006  Nuclear Energy
Jun. 08, 2001  Nuclear Waste
Jan. 22, 1993  Nuclear Fusion
Feb. 22, 1991  Will Nuclear Power Get Another Chance?
Dec. 05, 1986  Nuclear Reactor Safety
Jul. 29, 1983  Nuclear Power's Future
Dec. 04, 1981  America's Nuclear Waste Backlog
Sep. 12, 1980  Nuclear Fusion Development
Aug. 10, 1979  Determining Radiation Dangers
Dec. 03, 1976  Nuclear Waste Disposal
Aug. 22, 1975  Nuclear Safety
Aug. 04, 1971  Nuclear Power Options
Jun. 10, 1964  Atomic Power Development
Feb. 12, 1958  Radiation Hazards
Feb. 27, 1957  Atomic Power Race
Mar. 29, 1955  Atomic Energy for Industry
Apr. 24, 1946  Control of Atomic Energy
Chemistry and Physics