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Ongoing Research
Reset Nuclear Waste Policy


“Reset” of America’s Nuclear Waste Management Program:

A Critical Discussion of U.S. Strategy and Policy

The “Reset” initiative engages technical experts, government officials and members of the public in a series of focused discussions on the U.S. Waste Management Strategy and Policy.  The meetings are organized by an international Steering Committee. The project is funded by the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.  The meetings are hosted by the Center for International Security and Cooperation.

The U.S. nuclear waste management program now faces a series of significant, nearly insurmountable, issues that must be resolved before there is any confidence that the nuclear waste at the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle can be safely stored, transported and placed in a geological repository for final disposal. After more than thirty years of effort, there is now no clear way forward for the selection, characterization and development of a geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level nuclear waste (HLW). In 2010, the Obama Administration attempted to withdraw the license application for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.  In 2013 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was ordered by a federal court to continue the license application review, as long as funding is available. Because those funds were limited and no new money has been appropriated since 2010, the Yucca Mountain Project is now caught in a political limbo between proponents and opponents.  Even if that project should move forward, it has become clear to most parties that important changes will need to be made.

Many of these critical issues and required changes in U.S. law and policy have been identified by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future in a 2012 final report, but no legislative action has been taken.

The U.S. program cannot move forward without new legislation that would replace or amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The success of any new legislation will depend on the extent to which critical issues are recognized and effectively dealt with.

New legislation must be informed by a thorough understanding of the history of the U.S. nuclear waste program, as well as the scientific, technical, social and policy challenges required to “reset” the U.S. program. At present, technical and policy issues have been overwhelmed by a partisan political process that generally fails to address critical issues. 

As a first step, and in order to inform future legislation, the “Reset” meetings provide a forum for the discussion of the critical issues that must be addressed in order for the U.S. program to move forward. 

Critical Issues: For more on Critical Issues, please click here.

Reset of U.S. Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy Series