These days one hears a lot about “media bias,” There is a classic example of this on the back page of Section 1 in the April 3 Gazette. I am referring to the article, “Battle over Yucca Mountain nuclear dump flaring up.” This headline by itself sets the tone for the article. In the article, such terms as “nuclear waste” and “dump” appear regularly. The “waste” is also stated to emit “enormous” heat from nuclear decay.
Actually the Yucca Mountain facility is designed to store spent fuel from nuclear power plants. It does emit heat from nuclear decay, but the heat decays quickly such that old spent fuel can be stored outdoors in casks at the power plant when the inside water-cooled spent-fuel ponds become full. The terms “waste” and “dump” in most people’s minds are associated with the type of landfill facility that accepts solid waste from people’s homes and other places.
Nuclear spent fuel is a valuable material that can be recycled and then be mixed with new fuel for return to a nuclear reactor. The main reason that it is not recycled is cost. In France and the UK, this “waste” is recycled. In the United States, cost inhibits recycling the spent fuel at the present time.
The Yucca Mountain facility is designed to store spent fuel at a single location instead of having it sorted at each individual power plant. As I understand it, this facility is designed such that, should it become cost-effective, the spent fuel can be retrieved for recycling. However at the present time, nuclear power has become too costly, as opposed to using natural gas or renewables so recycling isn’t in the near future.
It’s a shame that the Yucca Mountain facility has become such a political football. However, such biased articles as in The Gazette don’t help the cause. Maybe someday people will have enough knowledge about this facility that it will be completed.
Sidney J. Woodcock