A Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future was appointed by President Obama to look into future options for existing and future nuclear waste, following the ending of work on the incomplete Yucca Mountain Repository. At present there are 70 nuclear power plant sites where 65,000 tons of spent fuel is stored in the USA. Each year, more than 2,000 tons are added to this total. Nine states have "explicit moratoria on new nuclear power until a storage solution emerges". A deep geological repository seems to be the favored approach to storing nuclear waste.
On January 26, 2012, the Commission submitted its final report to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The Commission put forth seven recommendations for developing a comprehensive strategy to pursue. A major recommendation was that "the United States should undertake an integrated nuclear waste management program that leads to the timely development of one or more permanent deep geological facilities for the safe disposal of spent fuel and high-level nuclear waste".
In the United States, a blue-ribbon panel (or blue ribbon commission) is a group of exceptional people appointed to investigate or study or analyze a given issue. Blue-ribbon panels generally have a degree of independence from political influence or other authority, and such panels usually have no direct authority of their own. Their value comes from their ability to use their expertise to issue findings or recommendations which can then be used by those with decision-making power to act.
At present there are 70 nuclear power plant sites where 65,000 tons of spent fuel is stored in the USA. Each year, more than 2,000 tons are added to this total. US nuclear waste management policy completely broke down with the ending of work on the incomplete Yucca Mountain Repository. Without a long-term solution to store nuclear waste, a nuclear renaissance in the U.S. remains unlikely. Nine states have "explicit moratoria on new nuclear power until a storage solution emerges".
In a Presidential Memorandum dated January 29, 2010, President Obama established the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (the Commission). The Commission, composed of fifteen members, conducted an extensive two-year study of nuclear waste disposal, what is referred to as the "back end" of the nuclear energy process. The Commission established three subcommittees: Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technology, Transportation and Storage, and Disposal.
During their research the Commission visited Finland, France, Japan, Russia, Sweden, and the UK, and in 2012, the Commission submitted its final report. The Commission did not issue recommendations for a specific site but rather presented a comprehensive recommendation for disposal strategies.
Some nuclear power advocates argue that the United States should develop factories and reactors that will recycle some spent fuel. However, the Obama administration has disallowed reprocessing of nuclear waste, citing nuclear proliferation concerns. The Blue Ribbon Commission said that "no existing technology was adequate for that purpose, given cost considerations and the risk of nuclear proliferation". A deep geological repository seems to be favored.
On January 26, 2012, the Commission submitted its final report to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. In their final report the Commission put forth several recommendations for developing a comprehensive strategy to pursue. A major recommendation was that "the United States should undertake an integrated nuclear waste management program that leads to the timely development of one or more permanent deep geological facilities for the safe disposal of spent fuel and high-level nuclear waste". There is an "international consensus on the advisability of storing nuclear waste in deep underground repositories", but no country in the world has yet opened such a site.
In their final report the Commission put forth seven recommendations for developing a comprehensive strategy to pursue:
Co-chairmen of the Commission were Lee H. Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft, and members of the Commission included, Vicky Bailey, Albert Carnesale, Pete Domenici, Susan Eisenhower, Chuck Hagel, Jonathan Lash, Allison M. Macfarlane, Richard Meserve, Ernest Moniz, John Rowe, and Phil Sharp.
Allison M. Macfarlane directs the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, where she is Professor of Science Policy and International Affairs. She was the chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from July 9, 2012, to December 31, 2014.Blue-ribbon panel
In the United States, a blue-ribbon panel (or blue ribbon commission) is a group of exceptional people appointed to investigate, study or analyze a given question. Blue-ribbon panels generally have a degree of independence from political influence or other authority, and such panels usually have no direct authority of their own. Their value comes from their ability to use their expertise to issue findings or recommendations which can then be used by those with decision-making power to act.
A blue-ribbon panel is often appointed by a government body or executive to report on a matter of controversy. It might be composed of independent scientific experts or academics with no direct government ties to study a particular issue or question, or it might be composed of citizens well known for their general intelligence, experience and non-partisan interests to study a matter of political reform. The "blue-ribbon" aspect comes from the presentation of the panel as the "best and brightest" for the task, and the appointment of such a panel, ad hoc, is meant to signal its perspective as outsiders of the usual process for study and decisions.
The designation "blue-ribbon" is often made by the appointing authority, and may be disputed by others who might see the panel as less independent, or as a way for an authority to dodge responsibility.
Examples of high-level so-called blue-ribbon panels in the United States would be the Warren Commission investigating the Kennedy Assassination, the 9/11 Commission investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Iraq Study Group assessing the Iraq War and the Clinton Administration's White House Task Force on National Health Care Reform. In each case, the panel did not have authority to indict or legislate, and their brief was to investigate and issue a report on the facts as they found them with recommendations for changes for government policy in the future. The current Blue Ribbon Panel on "sustaining America's diverse fish & wildlife resources" emphasizes incentives of industries, businesses and landowners to aid in conservation funding to prevent species from being added to the endangered species list.The term has leaked into official usage. From January 29, 2010 to January 2012, the U.S. had a Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. There are other government and private commissions with "Blue Ribbon Commission" in their names. These and others are often referred to simply as "the Blue Ribbon Commission" or "the blue ribbon commission", creating the potential for confusion.Brent Scowcroft
Brent Scowcroft (; born March 19, 1925) is a former United States Air Force officer who was the United States National Security Advisor under U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. He also served as Military Assistant to President Richard Nixon and as Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He served as Chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005 and assisted President Barack Obama in choosing his national security team.Cleaner production
Cleaner production is a preventive, company-specific environmental protection initiative. It is intended to minimize waste and emissions and maximize product output. By analysing the flow of materials and energy in a company, one tries to identify options to minimize waste and emissions out of industrial processes through source reduction strategies. Improvements of organisation and technology help to reduce or suggest better choices in use of materials and energy, and to avoid waste, waste water generation, and gaseous emissions, and also waste heat and noise.
The concept was developed during the preparation of the Rio Summit as a programme of UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) and UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) under the leadership of Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, the former Assistant Executive Director of UNEP. The programme was meant to reduce the environmental impact of industry. It built on ideas used by 3M in its 3P programme (pollution prevention pays). It has found more international support than all other comparable programmes. The programme idea was described "...to assist developing nations in leapfrogging from pollution to less pollution, using available technologies". Starting from the simple idea to produce with less waste Cleaner Production was developed into a concept to increase the resource efficiency of production in general. UNIDO has been operating National Cleaner Production Centers and Programmes (NCPCs/NCPPs) with centres in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.In the US, the term pollution prevention is more commonly used for cleaner production.
Examples for cleaner production options are:
Documentation of consumption (as a basic analysis of material and energy flows, e. g. with a Sankey diagram)
Use of indicators and controlling (to identify losses from poor planning, poor education and training, mistakes)
Substitution of raw materials and auxiliary materials (especially renewable materials and energy)
Increase of useful life of auxiliary materials and process liquids (by avoiding drag in, drag out, contamination)
Improved control and automatisation
Reuse of waste (internal or external)
New, low waste processes and technologiesOne of the first European initiatives in cleaner production was started in Austria in 1992 by the BMVIT (Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie). This resulted in two initiatives: "Prepare" and EcoProfit.The "PIUS" initiative was founded in Germany in 1999. Since 1994, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization operates the National Cleaner Production Centre Programme with centres in Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.Flue gas
Flue gas is the gas exiting to the atmosphere via a flue, which is a pipe or channel for conveying exhaust gases from a fireplace, oven, furnace, boiler or steam generator. Quite often, the flue gas refers to the combustion exhaust gas produced at power plants. Its composition depends on what is being burned, but it will usually consist of mostly nitrogen (typically more than two-thirds) derived from the combustion of air, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water vapor as well as excess oxygen (also derived from the combustion air). It further contains a small percentage of a number of pollutants, such as particulate matter (like soot), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides.Most fossil fuels are combusted with ambient air (as differentiated from combustion with pure oxygen). Since ambient air contains about 79 volume percent gaseous nitrogen (N2), which is essentially non-combustible, the largest part of the flue gas from most fossil-fuel combustion is uncombusted nitrogen. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the next largest part of flue gas, can be as much as 10−25 volume percent or more of the flue gas. This is closely followed in volume by water vapor (H2O) created by the combustion of the hydrogen in the fuel with atmospheric oxygen. Much of the 'smoke' seen pouring from flue gas stacks is this water vapor forming a cloud as it contacts cool air.
A typical flue gas from the combustion of fossil fuels contains very small amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter. The nitrogen oxides are derived from the nitrogen in the ambient air as well as from any nitrogen-containing compounds in the fossil fuel. The sulfur dioxide is derived from any sulfur-containing compounds in the fuels. The particulate matter is composed of very small particles of solid materials and very small liquid droplets which give flue gases their smoky appearance.
The steam generators in large power plants and the process furnaces in large refineries, petrochemical and chemical plants, and incinerators burn considerable amounts of fossil fuels and therefore emit large amounts of flue gas to the ambient atmosphere. The table below presents the total amounts of flue gas typically generated by the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil and coal. The data were obtained by stoichiometric calculations.The total amount of wet flue gas generated by coal combustion is only 10 percent higher than the flue gas generated by natural-gas combustion (the ratio for dry flue gas is higher).High-level radioactive waste management
High-level radioactive waste management concerns how radioactive materials created during production of nuclear power and nuclear weapons are dealt with. Radioactive waste contains a mixture of short-lived and long-lived nuclides, as well as non-radioactive nuclides. There was reported some 47,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste stored in the USA in 2002.
The most troublesome transuranic elements in spent fuel are neptunium-237 (half-life two million years) and plutonium-239 (half-life 24,000 years). Consequently, high-level radioactive waste requires sophisticated treatment and management to successfully isolate it from the biosphere. This usually necessitates treatment, followed by a long-term management strategy involving permanent storage, disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form. Radioactive decay follows the half-life rule, which means that the rate of decay is inversely proportional to the duration of decay. In other words, the radiation from a long-lived isotope like iodine-129 will be much less intense than that of short-lived isotope like iodine-131.Governments around the world are considering a range of waste management and disposal options, usually involving deep-geologic placement, although there has been limited progress toward implementing long-term waste management solutions. This is partly because the timeframes in question when dealing with radioactive waste range from 10,000 to millions of years, according to studies based on the effect of estimated radiation doses.Thus, engineer and physicist Hannes Alfvén identified two fundamental prerequisites for effective management of high-level radioactive waste: (1) stable geological formations, and (2) stable human institutions over hundreds of thousands of years. As Alfvén suggests, no known human civilization has ever endured for so long, and no geologic formation of adequate size for a permanent radioactive waste repository has yet been discovered that has been stable for so long a period. Nevertheless, avoiding confronting the risks associated with managing radioactive wastes may create countervailing risks of greater magnitude. Radioactive waste management is an example of policy analysis that requires special attention to ethical concerns, examined in the light of uncertainty and futurity: consideration of 'the impacts of practices and technologies on future generations'.There is a debate over what should constitute an acceptable scientific and engineering foundation for proceeding with radioactive waste disposal strategies. There are those who have argued, on the basis of complex geochemical simulation models, that relinquishing control over radioactive materials to geohydrologic processes at repository closure is an acceptable risk. They maintain that so-called "natural analogues" inhibit subterranean movement of radionuclides, making disposal of radioactive wastes in stable geologic formations unnecessary. However, existing models of these processes are empirically underdetermined: due to the subterranean nature of such processes in solid geologic formations, the accuracy of computer simulation models has not been verified by empirical observation, certainly not over periods of time equivalent to the lethal half-lives of high-level radioactive waste. On the other hand, some insist deep geologic repositories in stable geologic formations are necessary. National management plans of various countries display a variety of approaches to resolving this debate.
Researchers suggest that forecasts of health detriment for such long periods should be examined critically. Practical studies only consider up to 100 years as far as effective planning and cost evaluations are concerned. Long term behaviour of radioactive wastes remains a subject for ongoing research. Management strategies and implementation plans of several representative national governments are described below.John Rowe (Exelon)
John W. Rowe was the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the energy corporation Exelon Corporation, a utility holding company headquartered in Chicago. Exelon has the largest market capitalization in the electric utility industry. Its retail affiliates serve 5.4 million customers in Illinois and Pennsylvania, and its generation affiliate operates the largest fleet of nuclear power plants in the nation.
Rowe is best known for his vocal support of the proposed cap and trade mechanism for carbon emission control.His company left the United States Chamber of Commerce over the latter's highly public opposition to cap and trade.Landfill gas
Landfill gas is a complex mix of different gases created by the action of microorganisms within a landfill. Landfill gas is approximately forty to sixty percent methane, with the remainder being mostly carbon dioxide. Trace amounts of other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) comprise the remainder (<1%). These trace gases include a large array of species, mainly simple hydrocarbons.Landfill gases have an influence on climate change. The major components are CO2 and methane, both of which are greenhouse gas. Methane in the atmosphere is a far more potent greenhouse gas, with each molecule having twenty five times the effect of a molecule of carbon dioxide. Methane itself however accounts for less composition of the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide .. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the US.Lee H. Hamilton
Lee Herbert Hamilton (born April 20, 1931) is a former member of the United States House of Representatives and currently a member of the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory Council. A member of the Democratic Party, Hamilton represented the 9th congressional district of Indiana from 1965 to 1999. Following his departure from Congress, he has served on a number of governmental advisory boards, most notably as the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission.List of waste types
Waste comes in many different forms and may be categorized in a variety of ways. The types listed here are not necessarily exclusive and there may be considerable overlap so that one waste entity may fall into one to many types.Nuclear renaissance in the United States
Between 2007 and 2009, 13 companies applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for construction and operating licenses to build 31 new nuclear power reactors in the United States. However, the case for widespread nuclear plant construction has been hampered due to inexpensive natural gas, slow electricity demand growth in a weak US economy, lack of financing, and safety concerns following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.Most of the proposed 31 reactors have been canceled, and as of August 2017 only two reactors are under construction. In 2013, four reactors were permanently closed: San Onofre 2 and 3 in California following equipment problems, Crystal River 3 in Florida, and Kewaunee in Wisconsin. Vermont Yankee, in Vernon, was closed on Dec. 29, 2014.
In March 2017, the last remaining U.S.-based new nuclear company, Westinghouse Electric Company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of US$9 billion of losses from its U.S. nuclear construction projects. Later that year construction of two reactors of their AP1000 design at V.C. Summer was canceled due to delays and cost overruns raising questions about the future of the two remaining US reactors currently under construction, since these are also of the AP1000 design.Philip Sharp (politician)
Philip Riley Sharp (born July 15, 1942) is an American politician and nonprofit executive who served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic representative from Indiana from 1975 to 1995.Presidential Commission (United States)
In the United States, a Presidential Commission is a special task force ordained by the President to complete a specific, special investigation or research. They are often quasi-judicial in nature; that is, they include public or in-camera hearings.
Presidential Commissions often serve one of two political purposes: to draw attention to a problem (the publication of a report by a commission can generally be counted on to draw attention from the media, depending on how its release is handled); or, on the other hand, to delay action on an issue (if the President wants to avoid taking action but still look concerned about an issue, he can convene a commission and then let it slip into obscurity.) However, there have been cases (the Tower, Rogers and Warren Commissions) where the commission has created reports that have been used as evidence in later criminal proceedings.Resources for the Future
Resources for the Future (RFF) is an American nonprofit organization that conducts independent research into environmental, energy, and natural resource issues, primarily via economics and other social sciences. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., RFF performs research around the world. Founded in 1952, the institution is widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of resource economics.Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel, occasionally called used nuclear fuel, is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor (usually at a nuclear power plant). It is no longer useful in sustaining a nuclear reaction in an ordinary thermal reactor and depending on its point along the nuclear fuel cycle, it may have considerably different isotopic constituents.Susan Eisenhower
Susan Elaine Eisenhower (born December 31, 1951) is a consultant, author, and expert on international security, space policy, energy, and relations between the Russian Federation and the United States of America. She is the daughter of John Eisenhower, and the granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.Toxic waste
Toxic waste is any unwanted material in all forms that can cause harm (e.g. by being inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin). Many of today's household products such as televisions, computers and phones contain toxic chemicals that can pollute the air and contaminate soil and water. Disposing of such waste is a major public health issue.Waste management law
Waste management laws govern the transport, treatment, storage, and disposal of all manner of waste, including municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, and nuclear waste, among many other types. Waste laws are generally designed to minimize or eliminate the uncontrolled dispersal of waste materials into the environment in a manner that may cause ecological or biological harm, and include laws designed to reduce the generation of waste and promote or mandate waste recycling. Regulatory efforts include identifying and categorizing waste types and mandating transport, treatment, storage, and disposal practices.Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository
The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, as designated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act amendments of 1987, is to be a deep geological repository storage facility within Yucca Mountain for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste in the United States. The site is located on federal land adjacent to the Nevada Test Site in Nye County, Nevada, about 80 mi (130 km) northwest of the Las Vegas Valley.
The project was approved in 2002 by the 107th United States Congress, but federal funding for the site ended in 2011 under the Obama Administration via amendment to the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, passed on April 14, 2011. The project has encountered many difficulties and was highly contested by the non-local public, the Western Shoshone peoples, and many politicians. The project also faces strong state and regional opposition. The Government Accountability Office stated that the closure was for political, not technical or safety reasons.This leaves American utilities and the United States government, which currently disposes of its transuranic waste 2,150 feet (660 m) below the surface at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, without any designated long-term storage site for the high-level radioactive waste stored on site at various nuclear facilities around the country.
Under President Barack Obama the Department of Energy (DOE) was reviewing options other than Yucca Mountain for a high-level waste repository. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, established by the Secretary of Energy, released its final report in January 2012. It detailed an urgent need to find a site suitable for constructing a consolidated, geological repository, stating that any future facility should be developed by a new independent organization with direct access to the Nuclear Waste Fund, which is not subject to political and financial control as the Cabinet-level Department of Energy is.Under President Donald Trump, the DOE has ceased deep borehole and other non-Yucca Mountain waste disposition research activities. For FY18, DOE had requested $120 million and the NRC $30 million from Congress to continue licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain Repository. For FY19, DOE has again requested $120 million but the NRC has increased their request to $47.7 million. Congress has decided to provide no funding for the remainder of FY18.In the meantime, most nuclear power plants in the United States have resorted to the indefinite on-site dry cask storage of waste in steel and concrete casks.