“The overall record of DOE and of the federal government as a whole ... has not inspired confidence or trust in our nation’s nuclear waste management program,” the commission writes in the executive summary of the commission's draft. “For this and other reasons, the Commission concludes that new institutional leadership is needed.”
The US currently has more than 75,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel stacked up at 122 temporary sites in 39 states across the US, according to DOE reports. The nation's 104 commercial nuclear reactors produce about 2,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel annually. Thousands more tons of high-level military waste also need a final home.
Mr. Obama handed the commission the problem of what to do with spent nuclear fuel that will be dangerously radioactive for millennia and a big problem if it gets into the environment. Currently, spent-fuel pools and dry above-ground casks at reactor sites are being used for temporary storage. But a secure geologic site for permanent story remains key if nuclear power is to expand and the amount of spent fuel increases.
Overall, the commission recommends a strategy with seven elements, including:
• A new approach to siting and developing nuclear waste management and disposal facilities in the United States that is “adaptive, staged, consent-based, transparent, and standards- and science-based.”
• A new, “single-purpose organization” to develop a focused, integrated program for transportation, storage, and disposal of nuclear waste nationwide.
• Assured access by the nuclear waste management program to billions of dollars accumulating in the federal Nuclear Waste Fund and to revenues generated by annual nuclear waste fee payments.
• Prompt efforts to swiftly develop one or more permanent deep geological facilities for the safe disposal of spent fuel and high-level nuclear waste.