Among the recommendations for managing the current stockpile of spent nuclear fuel — approximately 65,000 tons of waste stored at about 75 operating and shut-down reactor sites around the country — is a plan to move the waste to temporary storage sites.
Public Citizen rejects this plan. In the absence of a permanent and viable solution, we and more than 200 other organizations advocate safeguarding the waste where it is generated.
The temporary dump plan is flawed for several reasons:
- It would put tons of lethal radioactive waste on our highways, rails and waterways. An accident in transit could put whole communities at risk.
- It would condemn a few targeted communities to being radioactive waste dumps for the whole country. Past attempts to place temporary dumps targeted Indian reservations and poor communities of color by offering substantial financial incentives.
- The temporary dumps could become permanent if no suitable geological repository site is found.
- It does not address an existing critical vulnerability of nuclear waste storage: almost all reactor fuel pools are filled to capacity. Fuel that is cool enough to move is stored in outdoor casks. Both types of storage are vulnerable to accidents, attack and natural disasters, as shown so clearly by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
To better safeguard this waste, we advocate hardened on-site storage — a plan that calls for emptying the waste storage pools and placing the irradiated rods in high-quality outdoor casks fortified by thick bunkers and berms.
Ideally, we should stop generating nuclear waste, but while it continues to accumulate, we must implement smart safeguards to protect people and the environment from the immediate risks associated with high-level radioactive waste.