Nuclear Power Q&A
What’s the long-term plan for used fuel?
In response to “Safe, Sustainable Nuclear Power” in our April issue (page 12), a few readers wrote in with a similar question: Is there a long-term storage plan for used fuel? We asked Scott Brame with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, who serves as a liaison to Duke Energy, the operator of the Catawba Nuclear Station. He provided this answer:
“On-site storage of used nuclear fuel was not intended to be permanent. The most practical and cost-effective long-term option for used nuclear fuel is deep geological storage. In the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Energy developed an underground used fuel repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The facility was developed and tested and has no technical obstacles. However, for political reasons, no fuel has been shipped to the site. A long-term storage option is still necessary. Nuclear power plants have safely stored used fuel on-site for decades, and will continue to do so until the political challenges are resolved.
“The volume of fuel used across our nation after almost 50 years, if stacked end to end, would cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of less than 10 yards. If all the electricity an individual used for 70 years was generated at nuclear facilities, the used fuel from that power would fit in a soda can.”
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