AIP FYI on Nuclear Waste

We reprint here, slightly edited, an article from the American Institute of Physics FYI news service regarding the issue of nuclear waste management. The original can be found at Another FYI on the same issue can be found on page 5 of our April 2009 issue.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today (January 29, 2010) the appointment of a 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission that will, according to a statement, “provide advice and make recommendations on issues including alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.” The commission will be co-chaired by former Representative Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft. An interim report is due in 18 months, and a final report within 24 months. The appointment of this commission is the latest step in a decades-long search for a lasting solution to the nation’s management of nuclear waste. In the early days of the Administration of President Obama, Secretary Chu told Congress that the Yucca Mountain repository “is definitely off the table,” declaring “I think we can do a better job.” In announcing the commission, Secretary Chu stated that “The Administration is committed to promoting nuclear power in the United States and developing a safe, long-term solution for the management of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The work of the Blue Ribbon Commission will be invaluable to this process.”

This announcement and remarks made in President Obama’s State of the Union Address further solidify the Administration’s position on nuclear energy. Last year, senators and representatives asked Chu in the early months of the Administration about its commitment to nuclear energy. During his Address, President Obama spoke of “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” Chu was quoted in today’s release as saying “Nuclear energy provides clean, safe, reliable power and has an important role to play as we build a low-carbon future.” Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, stated that “As the world moves to tackle climate change and diversify our national energy portfolio, nuclear energy will play a vital role.” The co-chairs’ positions are also clear, with Hamilton saying, “Finding an acceptable long-term solution to our used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste storage needs is vital to the economic, environmental and security interests of the United States,” and Scowcroft, who said, “As the United States responds to climate change and moves forward with a long overdue expansion of nuclear energy, we also need to work together to find a responsible, long-term strategy to deal with the leftover fuel and nuclear waste.”

Other members of the Blue Ribbon Commission are:

Mark Ayers, President, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Vicky Bailey, Former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Former Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs; Albert Carnesale, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor, UCLA; Pete V. Domenici, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center and former U.S. Senator (R-NM); Susan Eisenhower, President, Eisenhower Group; Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Senator (R-NE); Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute; Allison Macfarlane, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University; Dick Meserve, Former Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Ernie Moniz, Professor of Physics and Cecil & Ida Green Distinguished Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Per Peterson, Professor and Chair, Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California – Berkeley; John Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation; and Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future

Richard Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics

This contribution has not been peer refereed. It represents solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of APS.