Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste

By Luther J. Carter | Go to book overview

Conclusion

The Gorleben project has from the beginning symbolized a major gamble. The least of this gamble may turn out to be the heavy and exclusive bet that the German nuclear industry and the present government have placed on the Gorleben salt dome, although clearly it would be technically more prudent to have one or more back-up sites. The larger gamble is that, despite Chernobyl and the present defensive posture of the nuclear industry in Germany and around the world, the industry and government are betting heavily that the time has come to proceed with commercial reprocessing--and, inevitably, if the continued accumulation of burdensome stocks of separated plutonium is to be avoided, to use of plutonium fuel in light water reactors.

This gamble has affected nuclear waste management directly because disposal of high-level waste from reprocessing is the driving purpose behind the investigation and repository design work at Gorleben. Yet a likely outcome of this is a costly and embarrassing mismatch between repository and the waste requiring disposal. For many years, and possibly many decades, the greater part of the high-level waste on hand will be in the form of unreprocessed spent fuel. But the $1-billion-plus commitment to the exploration of the Gorleben salt dome has been made despite the fact that this site appears unsuited for spent fuel disposal as the Germans themselves have defined it, and is clearly unsuited for disposal in a retrievable mode.

The industry's present spent fuel management policy of expanding surface storage to fit the need, if continued long enough, will invite renewed charges that future generations will inherit the burden of coping with this generation's nuclear waste.

-288-

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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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