Emissions, New Projects, Nuclear, Waste Management & Decommissioning

Nuclear waste strategies need more thought before more plants are built

October 30, 2001 — Power Engineering magazine reader David I. Katz commented on John Zink’s article in the October issue, saying that the U.S. needs to realistically address the issue of waste transportation and storage before implementing plans for new nuclear plants.

His comments follow.

I am writing about John Zink’s article in the printed October issue. I agree that the partially completed nuclear plants in the United States are an asset that need to be recovered. However, we will need to realistically address the issue of waste transportation and storage before any plan to complete these power plants can be attempted.

With Yucca Mountain a dream in the distance, and with their ultimate capacity limited by federal law, the utilities must realize that the plant sites themselves will probably become the repositories of spent fuel and any other “hot” items that would otherwise be set to a centralized storage facility. The plant sites already have safety plans, security, and most should have sufficient acreage for storage.

Provisions must be made for this to be officially utilized for this purpose, rather than jury-rigging storage plans at the eleventh hour, after the plant is decommissioned. When these plans are in place, regulators will be able to cite them as a method of avoiding the potential for exposure during waste transportation (which, while minimal, is an issue that can help derail plans for centralized storage) and that the existing security will be maintained until the material is no longer dangerous.

I think that completing the plants mentioned in Zink’s article is an excellent suggestion that should be actively pursued by the plants’ owners.