Frequently Asked Questions

What can be done with nuclear waste?

An average 1,000-megawatt commercial nuclear reactor produces more than 20 tons of spent fuel per year. This used fuel still contains quite a bit of energy, but its fission process has slowed too much to be useful in making electricity. Because it is warm and emitting radiation, it must immediately be placed in cooling pools adjacent to the reactor. Regardless of a country’s chosen waste disposal method, all reactors’ spent fuel starts in these pools and stays there, covered in water, for up to five years. Once the waste has decayed and cooled enough to be moved, there are four options:

(Source: Bagor Daily News)
 

Facts about Yucca Mountain

DOE WEBSITE for Yucca Mountain

Federal law makes the Yucca Mountain Project subject to external regulations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The NRC reviews every aspect of the Project, which includes evaluating the Department of Energys scientific work and system performance. The formal NRC licensing process will involve external experts in the technical review that will occur when the NRC considers issuing licenses to construct and operate a repository.

Federal law also provides funds to state and local oversight groups and to groups of independent scientists to assure the accuracy of the Project's scientific methods and results.

For example, Congress created the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB), an independent federal agency, to evaluate the technical and scientific validity of Project studies and findings. Twice a year, this Board reports its conclusions and recommendations to Congress and to the Secretary of Energy and points out concerns from outside parties.

Ten counties belong to what is known as the Affected Units of Local Government (AULG). This group are funded by the NEPA act through congress to do oversight on the construction and authorization of a high-level nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Nye County, Nevada is the siting county where Yucca Mountain and the proposed nuclear waste repository resides. This link is to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act as Ammended explaining the Provisions Participation of State Government, Affected Units of Local Government and Affected Indian Tribes, NRC 63.113. (5) Subpart C—Participation by State Government, Affected Units of Local Government, and Affected Indian Tribes § 63.61 Provision of information.

During the early eighties, the Department of Energy looked at many potential sites for a repository. Considering a wide range of criteria, the sites selected for further study were narrowed down to nine, then from nine to five, from five to three, and eventually from three to one – Yucca Mountain. (click to enlarge)
During the early eighties, the Department of Energy looked at many potential sites for a repository. Considering a wide range of criteria, the sites selected for further study were narrowed down to nine, then from nine to five, from five to three, and eventually from three to one – Yucca Mountain. (click to enlarge).

Repository Sites Considered In The United States

In researching the option of deep geologic disposal, scientists considered various geologic media in which to locate a repository, including salt, volcanic rock (such as basalt and tuff), and crystalline rock (such as granite).

For example, one Department of Energy program examined areas underlain by crystalline rocks in 17 eastern and mid-western states.

In 1983, the U.S. Department of Energy selected nine candidate sites for the first geologic repository: Vacherie Dome, Louisiana (salt dome); Richton Dome, Mississippi (salt dome); Cyprus Creek Dome, Mississippi (salt dome); Deaf Smith County, Texas (bedded salt); Swisher County, Texas (bedded salt); Davis Canyon, Utah (bedded salt); Lavender Canyon, Utah (bedded salt); Yucca Mountain, Nevada (volcanic tuff); and Hanford, Washington (basalt). SOURCE: OCRWM DOE.

NEPA Yucca Mountain Downloads

List of independent oversight entities (this is not a complete list)
The chart below shows the percentage of the worlds reactors in operation

Atomic Symbol

February 2012 - US licenses first nuclear reactors since 1978

 

Nuclear radioactive waste canister
Click on the following links for more information and varying views of nuclear energy and it's impacts.

cannister

Spent radioactive waste cask

The Nuclear Energy Institute

give the following information about Used Nuclear Fuel & High-Level Waste:

Nuclear Reactor Towers

The 104 U.S. nuclear power plants are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for 40 years, and can renew their licenses for an additional 20 years. To date, 47 have received license renewal and 34 more are expected to have their licenses renewed. Eventually, virtually all U.S. nuclear plants are expected to apply for license renewal. Learn more