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Transporting and Storing High-Level Nuclear Waste in the U.S.—Insights from a Mathematical Model

Wegel, Sebastian; Czempinski, Victoria; Oei, Pao-Yu; Wealer, Ben

The nuclear industry in the United States of America has accumulated about 70,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste over the past decades; at present, this waste is temporarily stored close to the nuclear power plants. The industry and the Department of Energy are now facing two related challenges: (i) will a permanent geological repository, e.g., Yucca Mountain, become available in the future, and if yes, when?; (ii) should the high-level waste be transported to interim storage facilities in the meantime, which may be safer and more cost economic? This paper presents a mathematical transportation model that evaluates the economic challenges and costs associated with different scenarios regarding the opening of a long-term geological repository. The model results suggest that any further delay in opening a long-term storage increases cost and consolidated interim storage facilities should be built now. We show that Yucca Mountain’s capacity is insufficient and additional storage is necessary. A sensitivity analysis for the reprocessing of high-level waste finds this uneconomic in all cases. This paper thus emphasizes the urgency of dealing with the high-level nuclear waste and informs the debate between the nuclear industry and policymakers on the basis of objective data and quantitative analysis.
Published in: Applied Sciences, 10.3390/app9122437, MDPI