The Blue Ribbon Commission’s best answer for the nuclear waste dilemma.
John A. Bewick is Fortnightly’s contributing editor and formerly was secretary of environmental affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He holds advanced degrees in nuclear science and business management.
For America’s nuclear power operators, the future looks more uncertain than it has for almost 30 years.
Among all the complex political, financial and technical issues affecting the country’s nuclear future, the spent-fuel dilemma has proved to be one of the most difficult. However, just as the Department of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) prepares to issue its recommendations for a new approach to spent-fuel management, the Fukushima disaster has focused tremendous public attention on nuclear risks—adding pressure to a problem that already was nearing critical mass.
With the insistent media focus on details of the Fukushima-Daiichi failure, American citizens have learned that spent nuclear fuel pools aren’t protected by containment, and that many such pools have exceeded their designed capacity. This awareness has increased fear of radiation exposure, and fueled growing opposition to nuclear power. Recent polls show support for nuclear power has diminished drastically since before the Fukushima disaster. (See “Nuclear Power in US: public support plummets in wake of Fukushima crisis,” Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2010).