Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste

By Luther J. Carter | Go to book overview

Introduction to Part 3

Like the Americans, the Europeans and Japanese launched nuclear development on a commercial scale without the means to dispose of the radioactive waste to be generated. Such means are still lacking today. In certain nations, repository siting faces especially severe geologic and political constraints. Japan, noted for its earthquakes, volcanic activity, and high population density, is perhaps the clearest case in point. The United Kingdom, as a small, wet, densely populated island nation that has made serious mistakes in its past handling of nuclear wastes, also has proved to be an unsympathetic political environment for repository projects. Then there are such small nations as Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland: they face a variety of constraints, geologic or political (if not both), and for any one of them to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a repository for the waste from one to fewer than a half-dozen reactors makes little economic sense.

To see how Europe's leaders in nuclear power and technology have fared and are faring with their nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive waste problem, one should turn to France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. France has by far the largest nuclear program of the four, but each of them has been importantly committed to fission energy.1 The Swedish program is the smallest, but as measured in generating capacity it is only slightly behind the British program, and on a per capita basis Sweden's commitment to nuclear power has been greater than that of any country in the world. Sweden is of interest also because of its policy--initiated by a somewhat ambiguous referendum decision--to phase out nuclear power entirely in the next century.

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1
Total nuclear generating capacity in 1985 for these countries follows (with the capacity expected in the year 2000 shown in parentheses): France, 35.6 gigawatts (61.2); Germany, 16.4 (29.3): the United Kingdom, 10 (13.6); Sweden, 8.4 (9.4). Pacific Northwest Laboratory, International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Fact Book ( Richland, Wash., 1985).

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Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 - Sources of Public Unease 7
  • 1 - Containment 9
  • 2 - A Technology Ahead of Itself 41
  • 3 - The Reprocessing Dilemma 91
  • Part 2 - Searching for a Waste Policy 127
  • 4 - Policy Struggles in the Bureaucracy 129
  • 5 - Conflict in the Host States 145
  • 6 - The Nuclear Waste Policy Act 195
  • Part 3 - Europe, Japan, and the International Waste Problem 231
  • Introduction to Part 3 233
  • 7 - The United Kingdom: Problems of Containment 235
  • 8 - Germany: Wastes, Fuel Cycle Choice, and Politics 265
  • Conclusion 288
  • 9 - Sweden: Robust Solutions 289
  • Conclusion 306
  • 10 - France: Commitment to Plutonium Fuel 307
  • Conclusion 333
  • 11 - Japan, the Pacific, and the Nuclear Allergy 335
  • Conclusion 367
  • 12 - Transnational Problems and the Need for Multinational Solutions 369
  • Conclusion 396
  • Part 4 - A Time to Act 399
  • 13 - Common Ground 401
  • Glossary, Acronyms, and Abbreviations 435
  • Name Index 449
  • Subject Index 455
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