Think Tank: Market Forces Can Solve Spent Fuel Storage Problem

Solving the problem of spent fuel storage and management for the United States as a whole requires a market-based approach that provides incentive to drive a solution forward, a highly respected, conservative think tank in Washington has said.

The new study produced at The Heritage Foundation is called “Fooled Again: The Nuclear Waste Administration Act Preserves Futile Status Quo.” The authors, Katie Tubb, a research associate, and Jack Spencer, vice president at the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity, say the Nuclear Waste Administration Act would make it harder to find a rational policy for spent nuclear fuel.

There is approximately 71,000 tons of spent fuel in the country, most of it stored at the country's nuclear power plants, which provide the country with 19 percent of its electricity generation and the bulk of its carbon-free electricity. The Obama administration, however, directed the Department of Energy to withdraw its application for storage of the spent fuel underground at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. This year, however, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission completed its study of Yucca Mountain, deeming a storage facility there to be safe and secure.

What would solve the problem? Money, says The Heritage Foundation study.

Given developments in the past several years to get nuclear waste management on track, Congress must seize the opportunity to put forth an approach that takes advantage of market forces and that properly aligns incentives and responsibility for lasting reform,” Spencer and Tubb said in their report.

In other words, if a repository for nuclear waste was a money-maker and the federal government would stop meddling so much, a solution would be found.

The Nuclear Waste Administration Act does not solve fundamental problems in the current approach; it continues, if not expands, the dysfunction of waste management during the past 30 years,” the study says. “Simply re-assigning responsibility to another federal bureaucracy does nothing to fix the root problem—namely that the federal government is responsible for commercial nuclear waste management and disposal rather than the industry itself.”

The federal government has already backed itself into a corner. By promising a national solution that has failed to materialize, the nation's nuclear power plant owners have sued the government, which has paid out $4.5 billion in settlements. With no federal solution expected in the next six years, the DOE expects an additional $22.6 billion in taxpayer money will be handed over to the nuclear power industry by 2021. Industry estimates of settlements between now and 2016 are more than twice that much – around $50 billion.

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  • The Heritage Foundation is an advertising agency not a think tank.  The Heritage Foundation works for the fossil fuel industry.  If The Heritage Foundation gets its hands on spent nuclear fuel, they will use it to cause people to be even more afraid of all things nuclear. perhaps by selling it to ISIS.

    We don't recycle nuclear fuel because it is valuable and people steal it.   The place it went that it wasn't supposed to go to is Israel.   This happened in a small town near Pittsburgh, PA circa 1970.   A company called Numec was in the business of reprocessing nuclear fuel.   I almost took a job there, designing a nuclear battery for a heart pacemaker.   [A nuclear battery would have the advantage of lasting many times as long as any other battery, eliminating many surgeries to replace batteries.]   Numec did NOT have a reactor.   Numec "lost" some nuclear fuel.  It wound up in Israel.   The Israelis have fueled both their nuclear power plants and their nuclear weapons by stealing nuclear "waste."   It could work for any other country, such as Iran or the United States.  NUMEC was in Apollo, PA, near Pittsburgh.

    It is only when you don't have access to nuclear "waste" that you have to do the difficult process of enriching uranium.   Numec is no longer in business.   Terrorists can't compete with Mossad and Israeli dual citizens who are CEOs of companies like Numec.   Israeli nuclear weapons are exact duplicates of American nuclear weapons.   All persons who were "born of Jewish mothers" are citizens of Israel regardless of any other fact.   Since the US can't and shouldn't discriminate, the reprocessing of nuclear fuel in the US stopped.   That was the only politically possible solution at that time, given that private corporations did the reprocessing.   My solution would be to reprocess the fuel at a Government Owned Government Operated [GOGO] facility.   At a GOGO plant, bureaucracy and the multiplicity of ethnicity and

    religion would disable the transportation of uranium to Israel or to any

    unauthorized place.   Nothing heavier than a secret would get out.