Monday, September 19, 2005

New York Times Editorial Supports Waste Storage Sites

Friday's edition of The New York Times included an editorial hailing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision last week to authorize a nuclear waste storage site in Utah. The editorial carefully lays out the case for storage in Utah, noting the importance of such a site as a temporary solution until the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada is complete.

So far as is known, the used fuel rods can be left there safely for decades. But it becomes awkward and costly to guard and maintain the storage casks after the reactors themselves have been retired from service. Several reactors have already been shut down, and more are apt to follow. In some cases, the spent fuel rods sit on land that might have more valuable uses. Unless these used fuel rods can be sent to Yucca, a destination that has not yet been approved to receive them, it seems desirable to have a backup site.

... We remain hopeful that Yucca can qualify as a permanent disposal site. But if Yucca fails to pass muster with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the nation will need a centralized surface site to fill the gap until a safe burial location can be found. The Indian reservation in Utah can fill that purpose.
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Rod Adams said...

Why can't the dry storage containers be consolidated at existing reactor sites with operating reactors?

There are only a handful of sites where the reactors have been shut down. Recent license extension activity implies that most existing plants will be licensed for another 20 years. Indications are that existing reactor sites are some of the most desireable locations for new reactors so there will be a security force at those locations for the forseeable future.

Moving spent fuel all the way to Utah seems to be a waste of money, especially when you plot the location of current storage sites on a map that includes the projected storage location.

Engineer-Poet said...

If mileage is the biggest cost, that would make sense.  But I'll bet that the perception that casks are a greater risk (esp. for terrorist attacks) near population centers than they are in the middle of a sparsely populated area is the driver behind this.

I see this as a dilemma, because the dry-storage casks are the nuclear equivalent of a "honeypot network".  I would much prefer that terrorists try to attack a field full of steel and concrete containers (hard targets) with whatever they've got and try to manufacture a radioactive scare than try to blow up a Thanksgiving Day parade.