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The U.S. nuclear waste management program is stymied on multiple fronts – from the disposal of the high-level and transuranic wastes of defense programs, to the spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, and even, the disposition of fissile material from dismantled nuclear weapons. In 2002, Congress approved President George W. Bush’s decision that the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada be selected as the nation’s repository for high-activity radioactive wastes. In 2008, the Department of Energy submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct that facility. Two years later, the administration concluded that developing a repository at Yucca Mountain was “unworkable.” Today a stalemate prevails between those who continue to maintain that the Yucca Mountain project is “unworkable“ and those who believe that the choice of the site is the “law.“
Against this background, the Precourt Institute for Energy and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies sponsored a series of five meetings to identify the critical issues that must be addressed in ordert to move the U.S. program forward. The issues identified, which will be discussed in the presentation, include:
- New nuclear waste management organization
- Consent-based sitting process
- Integration of the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle
- Revision of regulations and a new approach to the assessment of safety
- Analysis of the risk of a status quo approach for the United States
Rod Ewing is the Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security and a Co-Director in the Center for International Security and Cooperation in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. Ewing’s research focuses on the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, mainly nuclear materials and the geochemistry of radionuclides with application to permanent geologic disposal. He is the past president of the International Union of Materials Research Societies. Ewing has written extensively on issues related to nuclear waste management and is a co-editor of Radioactive Waste Forms for the Future (1988) and Uncertainty Underground – Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste (2006). He received the Lomonosov Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2006. In 2012, he was appointed by President Obama to chair the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which provides scientific and technical reviews of the Department of the Energy’s programs for the management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. He stepped down in 2017.