Life after Yucca Mountain
- July/August 2009
- By David Talbot
Geologist Allison MacFarlane on the future of nuclear waste--and what it means for nuclear power.
In 1982, the U.S. government formally accepted the dirty job of finding a place to dispose of highly radioactive nuclear waste, including spent reactor fuel, which will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Five years later, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Energy to begin seriously investigating a single site--Yucca Mountain, NV--as a permanent geological repository. But earlier this year, with 60,000 metric tons of spent fuel clogging storage facilities at power plants, the Obama administration announced that it would cut Yucca's funding and seek alternatives.
Allison Macfarlane, a geologist at George Mason University and the editor of Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation's High-Level Nuclear Waste, is a leading technical expert on nuclear-waste disposal who recently sat on a National Research Council committee evaluating the Department of Energy's nuclear-power R&D programs. She spoke with David Talbot, Technology Review's chief correspondent, about the future of nuclear waste--and what it means for the future of nuclear power.
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