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Richard B. Stewart
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Solving_the_Nuclear_waste_Dilemma.pdf (478.35 KB) 478.35 KB

Current U.S. nuclear waste law and policy is bankrupt. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) set a 1998 deadline for opening a deep geologic repository to receive spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level waste (HLW) from reprocessing. In 1987, Congress amended the Act to designate Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the only potential site, and severely restricted the development of any federal facility for consolidated storage of nuclear waste. Nevada’s unrelenting opposition to the Yucca repository eventually succeeded with the election of Barack Obama as President. The Obama Administration has withdrawn funding for Yucca and withdrawn its application for licensing by the NRC. The bankruptcy of the highly prescriptive and preemptive NWPA leaves large volumes of defense nuclear wastes and mounting inventories of spent nuclear fuel without a destination pathway. The failure of Yucca contrasts with the success of the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) repository in New Mexico, which was developed entirely outside of the rigid NWPA framework. WIPP, the only operating deep geologic nuclear waste repository in the world, emerged over a twenty year period through a largely unplanned process of contestation and negotiation between the federal government and the State of New Mexico. WIPP opened in 1998 and has been receiving substantial volumes of certain defense wastes from Department of Energy (DOE) facilities.

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United States