Changes for U.S. Policy on Spent Fuel

The US should establish a centralized spent-fuel storage facility. Our current storage situation involves on-site storage of spent fuel at reaction plants. The wide-spread storage of spent-fuel is hard to regulate and could lead to potential safety hazards. The current system also poses major economic loses for the US government and its people. If the US were to establish a centralized spent-fuel storage facility the safety of storing spent fuel will increase as its price will decrease.

In addressing the safety component of this argument, it is important to understand the ways in which spent fuel is stored. Initially on-site storage stored this nuclear byproduct in wet-storage units. Insulated by water, aluminum and cement, and situated underground these vats are quite safe. However, with limited storage space many reaction plants have moved to dry storage, an aboveground system that relies on helium to prevent oxidization. Although this system is still safe, it is not quite as safe as wet-storage and it requires more monitoring to avoid disasters. As reported in The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future’s report “Although it found no unmanageable safety or security risks with current spent-fuel storage practices at reactor sites, it cautioned that 'rigorous efforts will be needed to ensure this continues to be the case.' Spent fuel that is stored at decommissioned reactor sites should be the first in line for transport to consolidated storage”.

If the US switched to an interim centralized storage site, then we would have more space for wet-storage and dry-storage techniques would be streamlined and monitored in one location which would lead to decreased risk. ( The major concern with this transferal is transportation safety. It is important to understand that no matter how long spent-fuel is stored on-site, it will eventually need to be transported to be converted into energy. With that in mind, transportation will not pose a greater threat to safety with a centralized spent-fuel storage facility than what it already does. (

While safety is of a great importance, the US will benefit most from a central spent-fuel storage center economically. “Removing this fuel to one or more centralized facilities would take the wastes off the hands of nuclear plant operators, which are suing the federal government for reneging on a commitment to store the wastes, beginning in 1998, a service the utilities are paying for but not receiving. Thus far, payments for the program by utility customers, plus accumulated interest, total $24 billion, the industry says.” ( Aside from this lawsuit, the current, non-consolidated system

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