The disposal of nuclear waste is quickly becoming the most important issue facing the environmental community today. Nearly twenty percent of our nation's electricity is being supplied by approximately 100 nuclear power plants that are operating in the United States. Currently, most of the nuclear waste created by these power plants is being housed temporarily in storage facilities and although the total amount of nuclear waste produced in one year is small, the need to find a permanent method of disposing this waste is rapidly growing.
The problem is everyone wants to live the lifestyle nuclear power provides, but no one wants to pay the price. Where do we put the waste and who should have to suffer so the majority of the population can prosper? Other questions that arise are why nuclear waste is so harmful and what can we do to stop it.
Nuclear waste is extremely difficult to handle. New technologies and advancement in waste treatment processes have made waste disposal safer, but it is still not absolutely safe. Not only do we as a society have to worry about treating and containing the wastes; we also have to find sites to store the waste that will not allow it to spread, even under the worst situations.
There are many classifications of waste. Spent nuclear fuel is the radioactive by-product of making electricity at commercial nuclear power plants. This form of waste contains hazardous chemicals and toxic heavy metals. It is also considered to be environmentally hazardous for thousands of years after it is used.
The current method of disposing of these waste materials is to store then in steel-lined concrete tanks filled with water. However, this form of storage is not permanent and the nuclear plants will eventually run out of storage space. In 1983, the U.S. Department of Energy selected nine locations in six different states for consideration as potential deposit sites. This was based on data collected for nearly 10 years. The...
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