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Nuclear Power Back In Vogue, Authorities Debate Waste Storage

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt. (AP file photo)

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt. (AP file photo)

In the quest for greener, cleaner energy, nuclear power is making a bit of a come-back.

In Georgia, construction is underway on the first new nuclear plant to be ordered in the U.S. in three decades. Many people are talking about including more nukes in America’s energy mix — including President Obama.

In many ways it makes sense: it’s clean power that doesn’t belch carbon into the atmosphere like coal does. But there is a problem, and it’s as old as the nuclear industry itself: what do we with the waste?

We were reminded of that again this week when the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut and Vermont sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — the NRC — about this very issue.

The U.S. still has no permanent plan for the storage of spent nuclear fuel. For years, the federal government was readying a site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but the Obama administration has scrapped that plan.That means spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste will continue to be stored at nuclear plants across the country. In December, the NRC issued an opinion that said nuclear waste can be safely stored in this manner at nuclear power plants across the country for 60 years after the plants shut down.

William Sorrell, the Attorney General of Vermont, along with the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut, argue that this policy is potentially dangerous. They want the NRC to evaluate the storage issue on a case-by-case basis.

Guest:

  • William Sorrell, Attorney General of Vermont

Other stories from this show:

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  • Mike Conley

    Generation IV reactors – IFRs (integral fast reactors) and LFTRs (liquid fluoride thorium reactors) are specifically designed to use nuclear waste as fuel.

    Long story short – nuclear waste isn’t waste. It’s unburned fuel.

    Build LFTRs and IFRs and the problem (wasteful conventional light water reactors) is solved.

  • FRE

    Mr. Conley is correct; nuclear “waste” is actually unburned fuel. There are a variety of ways to remove the actual waste from the unburned fuel in which case the actual waste has very little volume and decays quickly enough that it needs to be sequestered for only a few hundred years rather than thousands of years.

    A better solution is to use liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs) which use thorium for fuel instead of uranium. For more information on LFTRs, do a google search on “thorium reactor” and also visit the following web sites:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU3cUssuz-U&feature=player_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSzEjWz5T44&feature=player_embedded#at=16

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