US Nuclear Waste Plan May Be Illegal

The GAO has determined that aspects of the planned nuclear waste disposal program are likely illegal.

The GAO says the Dept. of Energy lacks the authority to create new interim storage facilities. Any authority they did have was tied to milestones or timelines not achieved. There is some suspicion the entire idea of interim storage facilities is just a stalling tactic to fend off lawsuits and delay the entire issue in the hopes of better technology being developed.

The Forbes article that outlines the problems also mentions the logistics with moving all of the spent fuel twice and that a transportation plan could take a decade to get that alone approved. They also note that much of the cask stored fuel at nuclear plants is currently “too hot” to transport.

The GAO review also pointed out that legally the Dept of Energy does not have the authority to develop any permanent storage site except Yucca Mtn the way the current laws are written. Adding to the problems with the waste program are the number of reactors being shut down in the US. As a reactor shuts down it no longer pays into the waste disposal fund.

The NRC had already admitted that spent fuel pool storage was never intended to be long term storage and is more dangerous than the reactor itself. A previous attempt by the NRC to come up with some sort of plan to deal with the spent fuel problem fell on its face. One public meeting to discuss the plans showed the massive flaws in the plan, after that the project was dumped by the NRC. The plan called for cask storage for over 100 years at nuclear power plant sites. When a member of the public asked the NRC how they could store fuel for 100 years in casks only rated for 20 years the NRC reps were without an answer. That was largely the end of this plan.

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