Acting to Move Spent Nuclear Fuel to Permanent Locations

The Biden administration is taking a new approach to the tons of spent nuclear fuel temporarily housed at nuclear plants across the country. The Department of Energy has announced a search for willing communities to store the nuclear waste after abandoning the decades-long effort to designate Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a repository following local opposition.

“Hearing from and then working with communities interested in hosting one of these facilities is the best way to finally solve the nation’s spent nuclear fuel management issues,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “We know there are real benefits from jobs to new infrastructure that will drive interest in areas across the country. The public’s input is central to identifying those locations to make this process as inclusive and effective as possible.”

The United States has accumulated about 83,000 metric tons of radioactive nuclear waste since the 1950s, which is now stored in steel and concrete enclosures at 76 reactor sites in 34 states, according to the DOE.

"Nuclear energy is essential to achieving the Administration’s goals to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by 2050,” the Department of Energy said in a press release announcing the effort. “Managing waste not only makes nuclear a more sustainable option but also helps fulfill DOE’s obligation to manage the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.”