Fifty years after nuclear reactors first supplied electricity for civilian use, no country has yet begun to deposit the waste from nuclear power reactors into long-term disposal facilities. Many countries have not even been able to decide what constitutes waste – is it the spent nuclear fuel itself? Or the high-level wastes resulting from recycling the fuel? Do we have to make a choice now or can we wait until technology gives us better options? Even the use of terms like “used fuel” versus “spent fuel” or “recycling” versus “reprocessing” have their own specific and politically charged meanings.
For the most part, the science of isolating waste is not controversial, but the siting of waste still is controversial in most places. As we consider the possible expansion of nuclear energy, what are the policy options for managing waste? How long can countries wait – given the vulnerabilities of some spent nuclear fuel pools exposed by the accident at Fukushima – before addressing the nuclear waste issues head-on? This panel will explore the Finnish experience in siting a repository, the U.S. experience, industry’s experience in reprocessing, and experience in seeking multinational solutions to disposal.