Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Is a Wakeup Call on Nuclear Waste Safety

“It is highly irresponsible to talk of building new nuclear power plants unless the nuclear wastes we have already generated over forty years are dealt with promptly and effectively,” says Richard Stewart, co-author, with Jane Stewart, of Fuel Cycle to Nowhere: U.S. Law and Policy on Nuclear Waste (August 2011, Vanderbilt University Press). The meltdown of spent fuel rods and releases of radioactivity at nuclear plants in Japan highlights the dangers of the current policy drift in the U.S. Spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power generation now sits in spent fuel pools at 104 reactor sites in 35 states, and there is no plan in place for its disposal.

Even as the federal government seeks to expand nuclear power, local communities and states are demanding a credible program for disposal of the wastes that we already have. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, appointed by the Obama administration to develop a plan, is currently conducting hearings. (The next one is scheduled for May 13 in Washington.)

The first comprehensive history and overview of U.S. nuclear waste law and regulation, Fuel Cycle to Nowhere traces sixty years of nuclear weapons programs, the growth of nuclear power and its waste legacies; the rise of environmentalism; and the responses of Congress and federal agencies. Richard and Jane Stewart expertly analyze the changing policies for storing and disposing of low-level waste, transuranic waste, spent nuclear fuel, and high-level waste and for regulating their transport by rail and by truck.

Fuel Cycle to Nowhere provides the critical information and analysis on the waste disposal issues and solutions that the commission, Congress, the administration, journalists, policymakers, and the public so urgently need.