Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal
Edwin M. McMillan and Philip Abelson announced discovery of neptunium (Np, 93) in 1940. Today, neptunium's 2.14 million year half-life makes it a challenge to nuclear waste storage and disposal.
Highly radioactive utility waste has been generated for decades by U.S. power companies that badly want to get the spent fuel rods away from their power plants–both for safety reasons and to help clear the decks for their plans to push ahead on a new generation of nuclear power plants.
The U.S. is far from alone in wrestling with the science, politics, and economics of nuclear waste.
Nuclear power plants produce 17% of the world’s electricity, and countries throughout the world have been studying nuclear repositories for more than 50 years, says John Paffenbarger, vice president for development and commercialization for Constellation Generation Group, a Baltimore energy company with two nuclear units.
Paffenbarger conducted an analysis of nuclear power in Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development countries for the International Energy Agency.
He found there is a growing demand in this group of 30 countries, including Western European, North American, and some Asian countries, to reach a waste solution after so many years of study. But he also found growing concern by the populations about practical aspects of actually implementing a plan.
The debate over a nuclear waste repository goes well beyond expansion of nuclear energy or generation of electricity. Because of the extreme and long-lived hazard presented by this waste and the immense timescale of the project, the issue becomes a matter of human stewardship of Earth and the unforeseen impacts today’s decisions will have on future generations.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society