The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established a national program for the safe, permanent disposal of highly radioactive wastes. In 2002, Congress approved a site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain; however, that project was stalled and defunded in 2010. Consequently, there currently is no disposal facility in the United States for spent fuel rods from 99 operating commercial nuclear reactors across the country. Both the federal government and the private sector are taking action to develop solutions for the long-term, sustainable management of our nation’s spent nuclear fuel. The Department of Energy, or DOE, is seeking public input on how to site facilities for nuclear waste storage and disposal following a consent-based approach. At the same time, two private partnerships are attempting to develop interim storage facilities in New Mexico and Texas. This webinar, the second in a two-part series, explores these proposed solutions for the consolidated storage of our nation’s spent fuel and provides insight into the DOE’s consent-based siting effort.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established a national program for the safe, permanent disposal of highly radioactive waste.  In 2002, Congress approved a site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain; however, that project was stalled and defunded in 2010. Consequently, there currently is no disposal facility in the United States for spent fuel rods from 99 operating commercial nuclear reactors across the country. This webinar, the first in a two-part series, explores the status of nuclear waste management in the United States, with a focus on how the lack of a disposal facility affects electricity customers, the communities that are home to nuclear power plants, and the utilities that own and operate the plants. Part 2 of the series, Searching for Solutionscan be viewed here.

Nuclear energy has provided commercial electricity generation in the United States since 1957, when a plant in Shippingport, Penn., came online. Between 1966 and 1977, 75 nuclear reactors were built in the U.S. However, a combination of escalating costs and increasing safety and environmental concerns halted almost all construction of new nuclear reactors in the U.S. after 1978. While the future of nuclear energy is uncertain, the construction of the first new reactors in decades and the continuing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is leading to an increased interest in nuclear energy.

CSG Midwest
Minnesota is the only U.S. state with an outright ban on construction of new nuclear power facilities. The state’s prohibition dates back to legislative actions taken in 1994 amid concerns and legal disputes about how and where to store the high-level radioactive waste from these plants. Minnesota has had two such facilities in operation since the early 1970s (Prairie Island, which has two units, and Monticello).
A bill was introduced this year to end the ban (SF 306/HF 1400), but it failed to advance. Two other states inthe Midwest have “de facto” moratoria on new nuclear power plants.
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A proposal to store nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron is drawing increased scrutiny and opposition, with Michigan lawmakers again weighing in with a new round of legislation and resolutions.
If its project is approved by Canadian regulators, Ontario Power Generation would build a 2,230-foot-deep geologic repository that would hold low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste.

Yesterday, the Florida Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee unanimously passed legislation that would greatly change a 2006 measure designed to allow utilities to charge upfront costs for nuclear power projects before they go into service.

Stateline Midwest ~ October 2012

In the Prairie Island Indian Community, some residents live as close as 600 yards from a facility storing highly radioactive spent fuel from a nearly 40-year-old nuclear power plant. The southeast Minnesota community has unwillingly become what state Public Utilities Commissioner David Boyd calls a “de facto storage site” for nuclear waste. And it is not alone.

Across the Midwest, in eight different states, a total of 16,800 metric tons of uranium is being stored at 22 nuclear power plants. One state in the region, Illinois, is home to nearly 13 percent of the nation’s 67,450 metric tons of uranium, the highest percentage in the country.

The electric ratepayers in dozens of states have been charged billions to build a site to store nuclear waste. As waste continues to be generated and stored on-site at power plants,   the President's Blue Ribbon Panel on America's Nuclear Future has suggested new strategies to manage spent fuel and create sites for interim storage for waste.
 

The U.S. nuclear industry took immediate steps to secure critical safety systems after Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was hit with a natural disaster last year, said Joe Pollock, executive director of Fukushima coordination for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Nuclear reactors in the United States are safer than those in Japan, but there’s still room for improvement, according to speakers on The Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference’s webinar, Nuclear Safety in the Northeast, June 19.

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