A nuclear power plant requires a vast investment of money and resources, it has to be decommissioned after a few decades of useful life– a process so expensive and politically unprofitable that we let plants run beyond their original expiration date, as in Vermont.
Nuclear plants produce radioactive waste, some of which is deadly for thousands of years. A commission set up by the Department of Energy will be offering recommendations, and a close reading of the following article suggests that temporary storage is the most likely outcome…
The quest for a national repository for spent fuel has been a festering issue for decades but gained higher visibility after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. The disaster not only damaged reactors but led to the loss of cooling water in at least one pool of spent radioactive fuel, raising the risk of the release of radioactive materials.
At nuclear plants in the United States, pools of spent fuel are far more heavily loaded. The National Academy of Sciences warned in a study in 2005 that the presence of vast stores of radioactive fuel could make the plants an attractive target for terrorists.
For now, members of the waste commission say, the panel is unlikely to make a recommendation for starting work on two controversial disposal methods: reprocessing the spent fuel to recover plutonium for reuse, as France and Japan do, or building a new class of reactors that would break up the most troublesome wastes into materials that are easier to handle. Instead, it will recommend more research, the members said. “Neither the technology nor the economics are ready to compel us to make a decision on that at this point,” said Phillip A. Sharp, an Indiana Democrat on the commission.
If we had addressed this problem thirty years ago, with conservation and smart energy use, and invested in better technology, we would not be arguing about whether coal or nuclear was the more deadly option.
We can continue to use tax dollars to subsidize a Soviet-style mega technology of the 20th Century, or use our tax dollars to reduce the waste of what we have, and take advantage of promising new options.