What can be done with nuclear waste?

An average 1,000-megawatt commercial nuclear reactor produces more than 20 tons of spent fuel per year. This used fuel still contains quite a bit of energy, but its fission process has slowed too much to be useful in making electricity. Because it is warm and emitting radiation, it must immediately be placed in cooling pools adjacent to the reactor. Regardless of a country’s chosen waste disposal method, all reactors’ spent fuel starts in these pools and stays there, covered in water, for up to five years. Once the waste has decayed and cooled enough to be moved, there are four options:

Bonnie Berkowitz and Todd Lindeman | The Washington Post
SOURCES: Revis James, director of the Energy Technology Assessment Center at the Electric Power Research Institute; William R. Martin, professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Posiva; World Nuclear Association; Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Dismantling Maine Yankee

Some of the cylindrical steel-lined concrete containers that comprise the spent fuel storage facility at Maine Yankee in Wiscasset.

Court tosses out rules on waste storage at nuclear plants

By Don Jeffrey and Julie Johnsson, Bloomberg News on June 09, 2012, at 5:46 a.m.
On-site storage is the industry's only option "due to the government's failure to establish a final resting place," the court said.
This April 14, 1998 file photo shows the defunct Maine Yankee nuclear power plant in Wiscasset.

Nuked and duped: Maine may store nuclear waste for decades

By Jim McCarthy on May 25, 2012, at 11:40 a.m.
As politicians dither over a permanent repository for America’s radioactive waste, costs are mounting at closed nuclear power plants such as Maine Yankee, where approximately $8 million is spent each year safeguarding the spent nuclear fuel stored onsite. New security measures under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could force …
This April 14, 1998 file photo shows the defunct Maine Yankee nuclear power plant in Wiscasset.

Maine Yankee wins $81.69M lawsuit against federal government

By Jim McCarthy on May 22, 2012, at 5:38 p.m.
WISCASSET, Maine — The U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed an earlier court decision requiring the federal government to pay $81.69 million in damages to the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. for the U.S. Department of Energy’s failure to remove high-level radioactive waste from the decommissioned nuclear reactor site …
Some of the cylindrical steel-lined concrete containers that comprise the spent fuel storage facility at Maine Yankee in Wiscasset.

Maine Yankee spends nearly $10 million a year to maintain spent fuel rods stored in Wiscasset

By Jim McCarthy on April 10, 2012, at 7:49 p.m.
Documents filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in advance of Tuesday’s $5 billion merger between Northeast Utilities of Hartford, Conn., and the Boston-based NStar reveal a hefty liability comes with the deal — namely, a 24 percent share of the $94.9 million Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. expects to …
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