Wyoming considering burying spent nuclear waste for revenue

WYOMING – In light of tough economic times, Wyoming is tinkering with the notion of allowing nuclear waste to be buried in state.

A specially appointed group of state legislators met this morning to discuss the feasibility and appetitive for storing spent fuel rods underground somewhere in Wyoming. The Spent Fuel Rods Subcommittee—made up of Sens. Jim Anderson, Eli Bebout, and Hank Coe, with Reps. Donald Burkhart, Jr, Tom Crank, Shelly Duncan, and Joe MacGuire; all Republican—welcomed presentations today from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and (NRC) the Department of Energy.

State lawmakers are hoping to offset losses in declining coal revenue by accepting radioactive nuke waste for cash. Environmental groups are expected to oppose any such effort as potentially harmful.

According to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, which spells out rules and regulations regarding the storage of high-level radioactive waste, the NRC pays $800,000 a year for the service. Yucca Mountain is probably the nation’s most high-profile example of offsite radioactive waste storage. It is currently dormant.

Concerns over the transportation of highly radioactive material have prevented any repositories from being used in the US. Currently, spent fuel rods are simply stored onsite at each of the country’s 102 nuclear plants including Idaho’s INL plant. When uranium fuel is used up, usually after about 18 months, the spent rods are generally moved to deep pools of circulating water to cool down for about 10 years. The waste then remains dangerously radioactive for about 10,000 years.

If ever approved, spent uranium buried underground in Wyoming would present a unique, full-circle irony of sorts. A state that is heavily dependent on digging minerals out of the ground (including uranium) would find an additional revenue source in putting minerals back into the ground.

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