Q: Why worry about commercial spent fuel?
A: 23.8 billion curies…and counting
We’re sometimes asked why we oppose the importation of commercial spent fuel – and why the State of Idaho pushed to ban it in the 1995 Settlement Agreement. After all, there’s already spent fuel at the Idaho National Laboratory, right?
Well, look at this infographic:
As of 2011, the US nuclear power industry had already produced about 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, and about 2,000 metric tons are added to its pile each year! There’s another way of measuring nuclear material than weight. A curie is the unit of measurement used in the United States for radioactivity. One curie is a lot. The 2011 curie count of the US commercial industry’s spent fuel was about 23.8 billion curies – 97% of all the radioactivity that is slated to go to a deep geologic repository to isolate this very dangerous waste from the human biosphere. DOE’s spent fuel and high level waste inventory, which is fairly static, accounted for 3% – 813 million curies.
This is why we don’t want commercial spent nuclear fuel to come to Idaho: It is a large, growing, and extremely radioactive waste stream and, given DOE’s track record, any that comes here is unlikely to ever leave.