05/30/2013 - 16:17

It’s 2050: Do you know where your nuclear waste is?

Allison Macfarlane

Chair of the Bulletin's Science and Security Board, Macfarlane was named to the Blue Ribbon Commission on...

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In light of Japan’s nuclear disaster, a major lesson can be learned related to the back end of the fuel cycle: Planning is necessary for the safe and secure management of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. But the topic of storing waste continues to be subject to last-minute solutions, as the experiences of a number of countries besides Japan show. Countries with nuclear power programs need a medium-term strategy for spent fuel storage prior to the long-term plan for spent fuel or high-level waste disposal. Though difficult, the disposal of high-level nuclear waste is possible, and a clear strategy to develop a repository combines both technical and societal criteria in a phased approach. After Fukushima, it is now imperative to redefine what makes a successful nuclear power program—from cradle to grave. Nuclear waste management must be designed from the beginning; otherwise, the public in many countries will reject nuclear as an energy choice.