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Fixing America's Nuclear Waste Storage Problem

Places to put it

The United States already has a (low-level) nuclear waste repository in operation near Carlsbad, New Mexico. This repository is in a several thousand feet–thick salt bed that was created about 250,000,000 years ago. The existence of a salt bed this thick and created so long ago is clear evidence of an absence of water at any time in the past, and in the future.

The Permian salt bed is so vast that all of the nuclear (and hazardous) waste created since the start of the industrial revolution 300 years ago could be safely stored there. However, the storage of spent nuclear fuel wastes or makes inaccessible a valuable resource. Much of the waste can, and should, be recycled into new fuel rods (ad infinitum). A commercial recycling plant was built by private industry (at government urging), but never completed—President Carter nixed the idea. I think the plant was moth-balled. This is ironic, as Carter was a former Navy nuclear submarine officer.

As a second choice, the DOE operates a chemical processing plant at the INEL. While this plant does specialized chemical processing for the Navy, it is adaptable to nuclear fuel reprocessing.

The DOE’s Nevada site built to store high-level nuclear waste was crippled before operation by the discovery of an earthquake fault running near it. Political opposition from Senator Harry Reid has effectively halted any further work.

Jim Connors

Wimberley, TX

Aug 28 2011 - 10:50pm

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