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Environment

Panel Urges Revamp Of Nuclear Waste Management

by Jeff Johnson
February 6, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 6

In congressional testimony last week, a panel of experts urged the U.S. to overhaul how it manages and disposes of radioactive waste and spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and former weapons facilities. The 15 members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future were appointed two years ago by Energy Secretary Steven Chu when President Barack Obama canceled work on the Yucca Mountain radioactive-waste repository in Nevada. In a report and testimony, the panel recommends a “consent-based” site selection process, noting that the “top-down approach” used to pick the Nevada site did not work. It also recommends development of at least one geologic disposal facility and at least one consolidated storage facility for interim waste storage. Lee H. Hamilton, the commission’s cochair, predicted that it will take at least 10 to 20 years before sites could be selected, approved, and developed. At hearings in the Senate and the House of Representatives, many lawmakers voiced anger over the President’s decision to drop Yucca Mountain as a repository. More than 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel is stored at more than 75 U.S. locations; more than 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel is created annually.

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