A report by a government research lab found that the U.S. will have to bury nearly 70,000 tons of nuclear waste after the Obama administration cut funding for the Yucca Mountain repository in 2011, reports the Moscow-based news service RT.
A 2012 report by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which does research for the Department of Energy, said that “about 68,450 [metric tons] or about 98 percent of the total current inventory by mass, can proceed to permanent disposal without the need to ensure retrievability for reuse or research purposes. The report also found that the rest of the nuclear waste can be used for research on fuel reprocessing and storage.
The Oak Ridge report also notes that the stock of spent nuclear fuel being held at 79 temporary locations in 34 US states “is massive, diverse, dispersed, and increasing.”
Reprocessing of nuclear waste has been a top concern among environmentalists who believe it’s simply a way for companies to profit at the expense of the environment.
“Recycling is a euphemism for reprocessing which is one of the worst polluters of the atmosphere and the ocean, and is a direct conduit to proliferation,” said Mali Martha Lightfoot, executive director of the Helen Caldicott Foundation, in an interview with Forbes. “It is not really a solution to anything except how can the industry get more of our money.”
The Energy Department has been looking into reprocessing since 2005, but the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan put U.S. officials on edge about recycling nuclear waste.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future reported that “no currently available or reasonably foreseeable reactor and fuel cycle technology developments — including advances in reprocessing and recycling technologies — have the potential to fundamentally alter the waste management challenges the nation confronts over at least the next several decades, if not longer.”.
However, some U.S. officials saying it was “premature for the United States to commit, as a matter of policy, to ‘closing’ the nuclear fuel cycle given the large uncertainties that exist about the merits and commercial viability of different fuel cycle and technology options.”
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