Next Steps for U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy: Implementing the Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission

CISAC Conference Room
  • Per Peterson

A broad scientific and technical consensus has emerged over the last several decades that deep geologic isolation can provide safe and secure disposal for nuclear high level waste and spent fuel. But given the stigma associated with nuclear waste disposal, credible scenarios exist where substantial inventories of high level waste and spent fuel will remain dispersed worldwide in interim surface storage at shut down and abandoned nuclear facilities, rendering these materials vulnerable to theft to recover fissile material and to accidental or intentional dispersion into the environment and transferring a large and unnecessary burden and risks onto future generations. With the detailed review of U.S. policy for managing nuclear waste completed by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future last year, the U.S. is now poised to restart its nuclear waste program. Legislation introduced in the Senate in 2012 provides a framework for a path forward that can address these major issues. This talk will review recommendations made by the BRC, and the current status of the U.S. nuclear waste program including actions likely to occur in the coming year.

Per F. Peterson is the William and Jean McCallum Floyd Professor of Nuclear Engineering in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He grew up in Reno, Nevada, graduating from UNR with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1982. From 1982 to 1985 he worked at Bechtel on high-level nuclear waste processing, and then spent three years to complete masters and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Tokyo Institute of Technology working on topics in heat and mass transfer, he joined the Department of Nuclear Engineering at UC Berkeley in 1990. There he served as a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator from 1990 to 1995; as chair of the Energy and Resources Group, an interdisciplinary graduate group, from 1998 to 2000; and as chair of Nuclear Engineering from 2000 to 2005 and from 2009 to 2012. Since 2002 he has co-chaired the Generation IV International Forum Proliferation Resistance and Physical Protection Working Group. He is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society, is a Jason, and was appointed by the Obama Administration in February 2010 as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. His specific research interests focus on topics in heat and mass transfer, fluid dynamics, and phase change. He has worked on problems in energy and environmental systems, including advanced reactors, inertial fusion, high-level nuclear waste processing, and nuclear materials management and security.