November 21, 2011 Articles

Spent Nuclear Fuel and the U.S. Response to Fukushima

The United States has a long history of political, regulatory, and legal challenges in dealing with spent nuclear fuel.

By Kimbery Reome and Krista Haley – November 21, 2011

The Japanese tsunami and subsequent events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant have caused much interest and concern over nuclear power in the United States. Specific focus has been given to the safety of spent nuclear fuel pools, which gained much attention at Fukushima.

Spent nuclear fuel in the United States has a long history of political, regulatory, and legal challenges. A snapshot of the issue at present shows over $30 billion dollars paid by utilities to the U.S. government, no performance by the Department of Energy (DOE) in creating a promised storage facility, more than 13 years of litigation, 76 lawsuits, $170 million spent by the government to defend the lawsuits, and $16 billion in potential liability. How has the industry responded to Fukushima while still addressing these challenges?

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