If you were expecting the Federal Government to actually do something with the waste from nuclear reactors, well, your sorely mistaken my dear reader.
Because the truth of the matter is that the “waste from more than 100 nuclear reactors that the federal government was supposed to start accepting for burial 10 years ago is still at the reactor sites, at least 20 years behind schedule.”
Read that again please, for the full effect. Our illustrious government is twenty years behind schedule. Isn't that a lovely bit of horror to start your week with?
Add to that bit of information, the fact that our government, by way of 60 lawsuits and various settlements, has already laid out roughly $342 Million dollars to the utility companies that own the nuclear reactors because they are so tardy in doing their job of disposing of this toxic waste that lies active for anywhere from ten to thousands of years. Now, you might think that sum of money is small potatoes. If so, how do these numbers hit you from the New York Times Sunday article:
Our government is “virtually certain to pay a total of at least $7 billion in the next few years and probably over $11 billion, government officials said. The industry said the total could reach $35 billion.
Yes, I put that total in bold. Wouldn't you? Those numbers are not small potatoes, nor is the total tonnage of nuclear reactor waste sitting around at all those sites. Although there are no set numbers for exactly how much waste is out there, a National Geographic article gives some estimates from a 2002 writeup of: 52,000 tons (47,000 metric tons) of dangerously radioactive spent fuel from commercial and defense nuclear reactors? With 91 million gallons (345 million liters) of high-level waste left over from plutonium processing, scores of tons of plutonium, more than half a million tons of depleted uranium, millions of cubic feet of contaminated tools, metal scraps, clothing, oils, solvents, and other waste. And with some 265 million tons (240 million metric tons) of tailings from milling uranium ore.
If all those numbers are making your head spin, well, just think of it this way: Each reactor usually generates roughly 20 tons of waste a year. All the waste is currently in, cough, temporary storage at 131 sites in 39 states. Of course that is if you consider 20 years of storing the nuclear waste temporary. I do not.
Yucca Mountain was going to solve all our nuclear waste problems, yes indeed it was. The earliest it will, if ever, accept nuclear waste at the repository located 80 miles outside Las Vegas in an old volcanic mountain range is now 2017. The cost to date for Yucca Mountain? Glad you asked, its at $11 Billion and counting. A total estimate of the construction cost is around $58.5 Billion. Yucca Mt. was chosen as a final resting place for all things radioactive in 1987. The Congress critters thought it was a great place to put our radioactive junk. Many scholars and other experts did not, including the residents of Nevada. Congress over-rode their objections, but I digress.
You might wonder who is footing the cost of this game of hide the nuclear waste:
"The rate-payer has paid for it," said Michael Bauser, the associate general counsel of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's trade group. "The Department of Energy hasn't done it, and now the taxpayer is paying for it a second time."- Bless the taxpayer..
Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Southeastern Washington state is 560 square miles of toxic death that is seeping into the ground and moving at a frightening rate towards the Columbia River. Some of the most toxic nuclear waste in the world is stored there. Of course the word stored is ridiculous as it's not staying put, its actually leeching into the ground and contaminating everything in it's path.
But that's another story for another day. If your interested, I blogged about the horror that is Hanford two years ago here. I don't want to totally wreck your Monday my dear reader.
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