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The economics of nuclear waste disposal

A worker walks past Castor containers filled with spent nuclear fuel rods from decommissioned nuclear power plants at the Zwischenlager Nord temporary nuclear waste storage facility on June 8, 2011 in Lubmin, Germany.

BOB MOON: From Japan's disposal problem to one of our own: The fallout over scuttled plans for a nuclear waste repository in Nevada. A new report finds the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission strategically withheld information from his fellow commissioners, when he moved to abandon the planned dumping site at Yucca Mountain.

Marketplace's Amy Scott reports:


AMY SCOTT: A 2002 law designated Yucca Mountain as this country's main nuclear waste site. But after fierce opposition from Nevada lawmakers -- like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- the Obama Administration blocked the project.

Kenneth Green with the conservative American Enterprise Institute says the new report confirms what he already knew.

KENNETH GREEN: This was a political decision. It had nothing to do with instability. It had nothing to do with economics. It had to do with Harry Reid didn't want it in Nevada, and Harry Reid had the power and the connections to kill it.

The report is fodder for Republicans trying to revive Yucca Mountain. The meltdown at a Japanese nuclear plant this spring has added urgency to the question of what to do with radioactive waste here.

Richard Caperton is with the left-leaning Center for American Progress. He says most of the waste is currently stored at nuclear plants.

RICHARD CAPERTON: The security is gonna be a lot easier at a single facility where they can really focus on that. Right now I think a lot of the storage is viewed as a temporary solution just waiting for a permanent solution.

Caperton says a compromise might be a small group of regional storage sites instead of one national one.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.
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