Given the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Middle East, University of Tennessee student Treston Wheat promotes an idea whose time may just have come!

…The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982 established a federal program for the management of high-level nuclear waste, which placed the Department of Energy (DOE) as the implementing agency.  The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) from the NWPA was meant to ensure the project’s timely completion.  Congress allowed the agency 15 years to establish a working high-level radioactive waste (HLW) management, transportation, and storage system.

…The DOE’s January 2013 strategy provided an updated policy recommendation regarding HLW to the Obama Administration. It provides a way ahead for the Administration, Congress, and other stakeholders to create a sustainable way to deal with HLW.

There are a few policy options that would allow the US to move forward on dealing with nuclear waste. The first policy option is a short term solution because permanent surface storage is not currently viable. ….

The second option is to utilize an interim storage facility until a long term repository is found. …

Finally, the government could seek a different repository, most likely in New Mexico. …

The United States is on the verge of an energy revolution. The amount of shale oil and natural gas, available from fracking, will make the United States of America a net exporter of carbon-based fuels in the near future. However, nuclear energy offers a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, and new methods now allow the recycling of spent fuel rods (reducing waste and storage needs).  Reprocessing technology has the ability to decrease the volume of waste by 75% while reducing the storage time to less than a thousand years. Nuclear energy is about 6 to 13 percent more expensive to generate than conventional coal or gas electricity, but it gains the advantage in reducing emissions.  It is significantly cheaper and more available than wind or solar energy.

The best way forward is to combine policy options one and two. Because it is not currently politically feasible to seek a permanent repository site, either in Nevada or New Mexico, the best options are to seek increasing on-site storage capabilities and looking for interim sites. Both of these options are economically viable and will promote jobs within the industry while offering a short term solution to the problem. During the interim it might be possible to establish a permanent site in Nevada, New Mexico, or another state. On-site and interim storage are both scientifically and technically sound options for several decades till a practical political solution can happen.