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World's 250,000-Ton Nuclear Waste Stockpiles a 'Global Crisis'

Energy
A spent fuel pool at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

A new study commissioned by Greenpeace warns that world's ever-growing mountains of nuclear waste is a "global crisis," as these spent fuels can remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years.

The 100-page analysis is an overview of nuclear waste storage facilities in seven countries: France, the U.S., Belgium, Japan, Sweden, Finland and Britain. Several of these nations' waste facilities were "near saturation," the AFP noted from the report.


"There is now a global stockpile of around a quarter of a million tons of highly radioactive spent fuel in around 14 countries," the report states. "The majority of this spent fuel remains in cooling pools at reactor sites that lack defense-in-depth such as secondary containment and are vulnerable to loss of cooling, and in many cases lack independent back-up power."

Moreover, these nations also have to confront other related problems such as fire risk, venting of radioactive gases, environmental contamination, failure of containers, terrorist attacks and escalating costs, AFP pointed out from the study.

"More than 65 years after the start of the civil use of nuclear power, not a single country can claim that it has the solution to manage the most dangerous radioactive wastes," Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany and coordinator of the report, said in a statement to AFP.

Burying nuclear waste deep underground—a touted long-term storage option—"has shown major flaws which exclude it for now as a credible option," Burnie added.

Greenpeace has protested nuclear power for decades and is a proponent of renewable energy, which is "is better for the environment, the economy, and doesn't come with the risk of a nuclear meltdown," the group's U.S. website states.

"Every waste dump in the U.S. leaks radiation into the environment, and nuclear plants themselves are running out of ways to store highly radioactive waste on site," Greenpeace USA writes. "The site selected to store the U.S.'s radioactive waste—Yucca Mountain in Nevada—is both volcanically and seismically active."

Plans to build the long-delayed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility were halted in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama, but the Trump administration appears to have revived the proposal.

The new Greenpeace analysis comes right as a damning report from the Nevada Independent revealed that the U.S. secretly shipped weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to store in Nevada months ago despite vehement opposition from the state.

"Time and again, we have seen Trump administration officials treat Nevada as the dumping ground for the nation's nuclear waste," Democratic Rep. Dina Titus said in a press release about the shipment.

"If the Trump Administration thinks that making such a reckless decision under the shroud of secrecy will allow them to move forward with Yucca Mountain, they are mistaken," she added.

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