Researchers have been study possible waysto safely launch highly radioactive materials into space because neither spaceshuttles nor rockets would be able to do so in their current states. Therefore,a new launch system would have to be setup and put into place where thelauncher remained on the ground in order to do so. The idea place in space thatscientist thought the waste should ultimately go was out of the solar systembecause less could go wrong. Safety isthe other major concern when it comes to launching waste into space. If spacewas to be chosen as the site for nuclear waste over all other options, it wouldhave to display lower risks than any of the other suggested waste disposaltechniques.
While there are certainlyrisk with this solution there are some potential benefits of launching nuclearwaste into space, one of those being that by disposing of radioactive waste inspace, it would then be permanently removed and would no longer be a problem thatfuture generations would have to deal with. Even so, space disposal is not theobvious solution to the nuclear waste problem and more possible solutionsshould continue to be explored. There areexperts that have suggest that reprocessing is the solution to the problem.They believe that Yucca Mountain is in fact not the permanent solution todealing with nuclear waste and that reprocessing is the only way. First thingsfirst, nuclear waste is recyclable. After reactor fuel has been used, throughthe process of recycling it can then be reused. The recycling process involvesseparating all of the good stuff from the bad stuff, so separating uranium andplutonium from other waste so that it can then be reused in nuclear power plantsto produce more electricity. By upgrading nuclear power plants so that they areable to reprocess nuclear waste, thousands of jobs are created and the problem ofwhat to do with all that nuclear waste becomes less of a problem now.
Francehas already been able to successfully implement this process and in turn has createdreprocessing plants that have created upwards of 11,000 jobs while also puttingabout $624 million dollars back into the economy. What they do is they sendused fuel from nuclear power plants to a recycling facility and there it iscooled down for three years, after which it is separated for recycling. Anymaterial that could not be recycled is then stored until a proper repository isbuilt. The problem with trying to implement a recycling facility in the UnitedStates is that there is a ban that was placed on nuclear fuel recycling backunder the Jimmy Carter administration that still stands to this very day.
Ifsuch a plant were able to be built, it might provide an answer to the nuclearwaste problem. Another problem that lies with trying to recycle nuclear wasteis the threat of terrorist acquiring materials to create nuclear weapons. Sinceplutonium separated in not highly radioactive and it doesn’t have to be assecurely stored as it would normally have to be, there is a fear that it wouldbe much easier to steal. Plus the amount that these plants are handling is solarge that it would be almost impossible to keep track of everything. TheUnited States had always had the goal of stopping the spread of nucleartechnology, permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which canstill be used as materials for nuclear weapons.
In trying to reprocess nuclearfuel, the United States would be undermining themselves. Reprocessing isn’tcheap either. It’s estimated that it would cost an extra 3 to 4.5 billiondollars a year in order to reprocess fuel and the costs of all of this would becoming from the American public. Probably the most compelling argument againstbuilding recycling plants in the United States is the idea that these plantswould actually reduce the need for storage for the disposal of nuclear waste.It would in fact actually increase the amount of waste needing to be disposedof, while also diverting resources and funds from the United States’ efforts tofind the ideal location for a geologic repository.
TheNuclear Waste Policy Act was put in place in order to promote the use ofgeologic repositories for high level nuclear waste. A plan of action was put inplace to evaluate certain sites to determine if they were fit for theserepositories. The Department of Energy was to be responsible for not onlyfinding the site, but also the building of the site along with the operationsof disposal. Potential sites for nuclear disposal have been researched sincethe 1970s and since it’s been found that the safest place to store nuclearwaste is underground, most of these sites being researched have been locatedunder mountain ranges. There were originally 12 locations that the DOE deemedideal as potential sites for waste disposal. Through public outcry and the fearof how this would impact politics, in what was then an election year, led toall potential eastern site locations for radioactive waste being removed as apossible choice of site. The final selection came down to three potentialsites, Nevada, Texas, or Washing. Ultimately The Nuclear Waste PolicyAmendments Act of 1987 was able to narrow the list down to one specific site,Yucca Mountain, which was located in Nevada.
There was plenty of backlash thatcame from this final selection and there were even members of congress haveadmitted that the amendments act they passed in 1987 wasn’t driven by safetyand environmental considerations, but was in fact driven by politicalconsiderations. Even though Nevada objected to being chosen as the site fornuclear waste, congress continued on knowing that Nevada’s political influencewas much more limited than both Texas and Washington.