Episode 118: How is nuclear waste shipped and stored?

What do we do with dangerous waste from nuclear energy production? Energy Bite expert Jared Cohon, Director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and former President of Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the challenges to disposing of our nuclear waste.



Learn more

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal from the Congressional Research Service

Nuclear and Uranium Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Radioactive Waste: Production, Storage, Disposal from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission


HOST: Nuclear energy plants generate waste. How is that waste shipped and stored? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jared Cohon, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, has some answers.

COHON: America has a nuclear waste problem. Every year, commercial nuclear power plants must replace a third of nuclear fuel they use. We have the challenge of managing this spent fuel, along with similar waste from the Nation’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear submarines. This nuclear waste is enough to kill everyone on earth.

HOST: That is astonishing. What’s being done about it?

COHON: Today, nuclear waste is stored at the power plants where it’s generated. The spent fuel rods from are put in big, deep swimming pools of treated water while the rods are still “hot.” After they cool down, which takes years, they are placed in thick metal containers that sit on concrete pads at the plant sites. Waste is rarely shipped, but when it is, it’s in similar storage containers.

The U.S. has been looking for a permanent location for its nuclear waste for more than 30 years. The basic problem is that no one wants a nuclear waste facility in their area. It’s a classic case of what we call NIMBY – or Not in my back yard.

HOST: What do you think should be done with the nation’s nuclear waste? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production of 90.5 WESA Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.


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