radioactively-contaminated container

Reset Nuclear Waste Policy

A Critical Discussion of U.S. Strategy and Policy


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.

America's Nuclear Waste - No Solution in Sight

America's Nuclear Waste - No Solution in Sight

International experts explain the U.S. nuclear waste program gridlock

    The U.S. Program Today
  • The U.S. Program Today
  • Getting the U.S. Program Back on Track
  • Critical Issues
  • Reset of U.S. Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy Series
  • Report on America's nuclear future

The U.S. Program Today

The U.S. nuclear waste management program now faces a series of significant, nearly insurmountable, 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 still no clear way forward for the selection, characterization and development of a geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel (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. approach.

Getting the U.S. Program Back on Track

Some of the critical issues and required changes in U.S. law and policy were identified by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future in a 2012 final report, but no legislative action has been taken on the recommendations.

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 that generally has failed to address the critical issues. 

Critical Issues

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. 

Report on America's nuclear future

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) was formed by the Secretary of Energy at the request of the President to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle and recommend a new strategy. This 2012 report highlights the Commission’s findings and conclusions and presents recommendations for consideration by the Administration and Congress, as well as interested state, tribal and local governments, other stakeholders, and the public