Columbia University report sets out nuclear waste policy options

February 1, 2021, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions

A new report out of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) offers a number of recommendations for improving the management of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States.

The report, Forging a Path Forward on U.S. Nuclear Waste Management: Options for Policy Makers, explains how the United States reached its current stalemate over nuclear waste disposal. It then examines productive approaches in other countries, and a few domestic ones, that could guide policymakers through options for improving the prospects for finding a disposal path for U.S. spent fuel and HLW.

Part of the center’s wider work on nuclear energy, the report echoes previous recommendations for U.S. spent fuel and HLW management, such as the use of a consent-based siting process and the formation of an independent waste management organization, both of which were recommended in the Blue Ribbon Commission’s 2012 report to the Secretary of Energy and Stanford University’s 2018 report, Reset of U.S. Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy.

The recommendations: In the report, author Matt Bowen, a CGEP research scholar, makes the following policy recommendations:

  • Create a new organization whose sole mission is nuclear waste management (and whose approach is consent based).
  • Improve the funding structure of the U.S. nuclear waste program.
  • Pursue the disposal of U.S. defense waste first, ahead of the disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power plants.
  • Prepare for a large-scale transportation program.
  • Update generic regulatory standards for future geologic repositories.
  • Negotiate an agreement with Nevada on Yucca Mountain.

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