Amid Policy Uncertainty, Illinois Sits on Nuclear Waste

As costs for nuclear waste escalate, states like Illinois are stuck with the radioactive material as Washington debates a solution.
National Journal
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Alex Brown
Oct. 25, 2013, 9:21 a.m.

Amer­ica still doesn’t know where to put its nuc­le­ar waste. And while Con­gress de­bates the mer­its of Yucca Moun­tain and oth­er pro­pos­als, that waste is stuck at power plants across the coun­try that wer­en’t de­signed to store it — leav­ing Illinois with 13 per­cent of the coun­try’s dis­posed ra­dio­act­ive ma­ter­i­al.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Illinois has the most nuc­le­ar re­act­ors in the coun­try, Bloomberg re­ports, along with roughly 9,100 met­ric tons of ra­dio­act­ive waste. Thirty-four oth­er states have been left hold­ing the waste in power plants or closed fa­cil­it­ies. Pennsylvania, South Car­o­lina, and New York round out the top nuc­le­ar-stor­age states.

By 2020, one study pre­dicts, tax­pay­ers may be spend­ing as much as $20 bil­lion to cov­er the li­ab­il­ity for the tem­por­ary stor­age. “[T]hese com­munit­ies were nev­er asked about, and nev­er con­tem­plated or con­sen­ted to, the con­ver­sion of these re­act­or sites in­to in­def­in­ite long-term stor­age fa­cil­it­ies,” said a com­mis­sion tasked by Pres­id­ent Obama last year with find­ing a solu­tion. Its mem­bers in­cluded now-En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz and now-Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion Chair­wo­man Al­lis­on Mac­far­lane.


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