“Reset” of America’s Nuclear Waste Management Program:
A Critical Discussion of U.S. Strategy and Policy
- Summary of 1st Meeting -
February 17 – 18, 2015
The “Reset” initiative engages technical experts, government officials and members of the public in a series of focused discussions on the U.S. Waste Management Strategy and Policy. The meetings are organized by an international Steering Committee. The project is funded by the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford. The meetings are hosted by the Center for International Security and Cooperation.
The U.S. nuclear waste management program now faces a series of significant issues that must be resolved before there is any confidence that the nuclear waste at the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle can be safely stored, transported and placed in a geological repository for final disposal. After more than thirty years of effort, there is now no clear way forward for the selection, characterization and development of a geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel required (SNF) and high-level nuclear waste (HLW). In 2010, the Obama Administration attempted to withdraw the license application for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. In 2013, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was ordered by a federal court to continue the license application review as long as funding was available. Because those funds were limited and no new money has been appropriated since 2010, the Yucca Mountain Project is now caught in a political limbo between proponents and opponents. Even if that project should move forward, it has become clear to most parties that important changes will need to be made in the U.S. strategy.
Many of these critical issues and required changes in U.S. law and policy have been identified by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future in a 2012 final report, but no legislative action has been taken.
The U.S. program cannot move forward without new legislation that would replace or amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The success of any new legislation will depend on the extent to which critical issues are recognized and effectively dealt with.
New legislation must be informed by a thorough understanding of the history of the U.S. nuclear waste program, as well as the scientific, technical, social and policy challenges required to “Reset” the U.S. program. At present, technical and policy issues have been overwhelmed by a partisan political process.
As a first step, and in order to inform future legislation, the “Reset” meetings provide a forum for the discussion of the critical issues that must be addressed in order for the U.S. program to move forward.
In a first meeting in February, 2015, the Steering Committee identified these critical issues, each of which will be the subject of a separate meeting:
Each of these issues has a generally unappreciated level of complexity. The discussion of each issue requires input across the broadest range of disciplines – science, engineering, social science, political science and the law. The discussions also importantly benefit from the participation of concerned members of the public, state governments, national laboratories, and universities, as well as members of the executive and legislative branches of government. The purpose of the Reset meetings is to provide a forum for discussion from a wide range of perspectives.