An opinion piece in today’s Los Angeles Times by physicist Frank von Hippel makes the case that storing, rather than reprocessing, nuclear waste is the best way to go. The issue is of considerable interest in the Northwest, where nuclear cleanup activities in two areas – the Hanford site in southeast Washington and the Idaho National Laboratory area in eastern Idaho – are underway, and where eventual storage of waste from those areas at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain repository has been eagerly anticipated for some time.
The Yucca option seems to be fading rapidly (owing partly to intense opposition in Nevada), so the question hangs in the air: What should be done with the waste? One option could be reprocessing, which is done in France. von Hippel makes a strong case that reprocessing along those lines is bad idea, both highly expensive and unsafe. Storage, he argues, would be better.
Toward the end of the article, he suggests this: “The U.S. made the mistake with Yucca Mountain of trying to force a repository on an unwilling state. One alternative would be to follow the path of Finland and Sweden, which have placed their underground repositories in communities that already host nuclear power plants. They have found that once people in a community have accepted a nuclear facility, they view the addition of an underground repository as a relatively minor issue.”
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