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The US nuclear waste issue – solved

Nuclear energy is a must. Disposal is within our reach.

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President-elect Barack Obama supports nuclear power to increase US energy independence and fight global warming – but only if a path to safe nuclear waste disposal is opened. Fortunately, there is a two-step plan that can open that path and lead to an effective waste solution within eight years. And it embraces citizen consent.

In 1987, Congress cut off comparative site evaluations and closed all discussion of permanent nuclear waste locations except Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. It taxed nuclear utilities to pay for it, racking up $26 billion to date.

The Energy Department did what Congress required: It studied Yucca and recently submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve site construction.

However, few informed observers believe that the facility can be completed without the cooperation of Nevada, which is dead set against it. Critics perceive the site as too risky and as a threat to tourism. On top of that, Nevadans seem to feel that the federal government is unfairly pushing the facility on the state. Decades of complex administrative delays and judicial battles loom.

So, half a century after we started generating nuclear power, used nuclear fuel continues to accumulate at more than 100 temporary storage facilities near nuclear power plants. It's a daily reminder of the unfulfilled federal promise to own and begin moving the material by 1998.

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