A Decentralized Model for U.S. Nuclear Waste Management

Writing in today’s issue of Science magazine, two well-respected academic experts propose a new national strategy for U.S. nuclear waste disposal. Drawing lessons from the 22-year failed effort to establish a permanent geologic repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Rodney  Ewing (Michigan) and Frank von Hippel (Princeton) say it was an obvious mistake to try to force the facility down the throats of unwilling Nevadans. They also declare unfortunate the very long time it took the Environmental Protection Agency  to produce an environmental assessment, and the fact that the assessment was site-specific rather than generic to any proposed nuclear waste repository.

Taking cues from more successful planning for permanent nuclear waste disposal in Sweden, Finland, and France, Ewing and von Hippel propose that U.S. disposal policy should be regionalized. States in which nuclear power plants operate should develop their own permanent disposal plans, perhaps in combination with each other and perhaps in line with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s zones. EPA should formulate generic performance standards suitable for any facility.

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