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Component One    
     After the fuel has been in the reactor for about 18 months, much of the uranium has already fissioned and a considerable quantity of fission products have built up in the fuel. The reactor is then refueled by replacing about 1/3 of the fuel rods. This generally takes one or two months. 
     When fuel rods are removed from the reactor they contain large quantities of highly radioactive fission products and are generating heat at a high rate. They are then put in a large tank of water about the size of a swimming pool. There they become less radioactive as the more highly radioactive isotopes decay and also generate less and less heat. The longer the spent fuel is stored, the easier it will be to handle, but many reactors have been holding spent fuel so long that their tanks are getting full. They must either send the rods off or build more tanks. 
     The fuel rods should then be reprocessed. Reprocessing removes any leftover uranium and the plutonium that has been formed. European reprocessing plants (Belgium, France, Germany, Russia, UK) continue to operate, and the Japanese are building their own - in the meantime sending their spent fuel to Europe for reprocessing. The French plant they use sends their plutonium back to Japan, where the Japanese plan to use it as reactor fuel. 
     The fission products are then put in a form for long term storage. A large reactor produces about a cubic meter of fission products per year. Many schemes for long term storage have been devised, but lawsuits and politics have prevented any of them from being implemented in the United States. 
Geographic Site 1
     Yucca Mountain, Nevada, is one of the places in the United States which was drafted and examined for a repository for the nation¨s nuclear waste. After thorough processing and study, it has been selected.
     In 1954, the Atomic Energy Act is passed by Congress directing the federal government to promote the peaceful use of atomic energy, with the understanding that disposal of the highly radioactive waste produced would be the responsibility of the federal government. 
     In 1956, the National Academy of Sciences recommends deep geologic disposal of the long-lived, highly radioactive wastes from nuclear reactors, suggesting that buried salt deposits and other rock types be investigated for permanent repositories.
     In the early 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) announces that a salt mine at Lyons, Kansas, will be developed as a high-level radioactive waste repository, only to reverse its decision after state geologists discover the site is riddled with abandoned oil and gas exploration boreholes.
     In 1975, the Energy Research and Development Administration (formerly AEC) begins to search for a possible permanent repository for the nation's nuclear waste. A multiple site survey emphasizing buried salt deposits and federal nuclear facility sites is conducted in 36 states, including Nevada, but is reduced in scope due to decreased funding and political opposition from states.
     In 1980, a deep geologic disposal is selected by the Department of Energy (formerly ERDA) in an Environmental Impact Statement as the preferred alternative for permanent disposal of commercial high-level nuclear waste.
     In 1982, Congress passes Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) which establishes a repository site screening process; requires two repositories to assure regional equity; sets a schedule leading to federal waste acceptance for disposal beginning in 1998; starts the Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for the waste program with fees collected on the generation of electricity from nuclear power plants; and requires that the repositories be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
     In 1983, the DOE names nine previously screened potential repository sites in six states: seven in salt deposits and two on western federal nuclear facility sites (including the Nevada Test Site) in volcanic rock deposits. Critics claim the sites were recycled from the 1975 search, and that the NWPA requires DOE to conduct a new screening process rather than proceed with sites considered prior to the passage of the NWPA. DOE slows down its process to involve the states and federal agencies in a more consultative process. 
     In 1986, the DOE issues final Environmental Assessments and nominates five candidate repository sites from the original nine, and then selects three western sites -- in Nevada, Texas, and Washington -- for detailed investigation, from which one is to be selected for repository licensing.
     In 1986, the DOE indefinitely postpones the second repository siting program, violating the regional equity intent of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, after much objection from states in the northern mid-west and east where potentially acceptable repository sites in granite are prohibited.
     In 1987, Congress amends the NWPA, designating Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the sole repository site to be characterized. Two other sites are removed from consideration, the screening process for a second repository site is ended, and studies of repository sites in granite are prohibited.
     In 1988, DOE holds public hearings on their site characterization plan for Yucca Mountain. 
     In 1991, surface studies begin at the Yucca Mountain site
     In 1993, DOE begins grading work on first phase of the Exploratory Studies Facility at the proposed repository site. DOE also formulates a new Program Approach that sets waste acceptance to begin in 2010, relies on DOE's development and distribution of Multi-Purpose Canisters to begin interim waste storage in 1998, sets a site characterization schedule which defers some work to a repository performance confirmation period lasting up to 100 years after waste emplacement begins. 
     In 1994, portal entrance to the Exploratory Studies Facility is constructed and tunneling into Yucca Mountain begins. Critics charge that the portal ramps and entrance are constructed for use as a repository, not a study area.
     In 1995, tunnel boring machine makes progress into Yucca Mountain but encounters loose ground at various points. Five miles of tunnels are planned for the study area by 1996. Bills are pending in Congress that re-prioritize the waste program to emphasize interim waste storage and transportation, with site characterization as a lower priority. 
  
     In 1997, thermal testing begins at Yucca Mountain. It is scheduled to take eight years.
     In 1998, DOE fails to meet its January deadline for waste acceptance. Lawsuits are filed by states and the nuclear industry. Legislation that would put an interim storage facility on the Nevada Test Site dies in Congress. The Yucca Mountain Viability Assessment is released in December with DOE declaring the site "viable" but admitting that much work still needs to be done before the site can be officially recommended in 2001. 
     In 1999, bills emphasizing interim spent fuel storage at the Nevada Test Site are again introduced in the US Congress with President Clinton vowing to veto any such legislation. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Yucca Mountain is released for public comment in August.
     In 2000, due to concerns that the EPA's role in setting radiation standards would be too limited, President Clinton again vetoes nuclear waste legislation passed by Congress. The site characterization project continues at Yucca Mountain as DOE prepares the Final Environmental Impact Statement and nears the point where suitability must ultimately be decided. 
     In 2001, EPA announces proposed radiation standards for Yucca Mountain. The State of Nevada files suit against the EPA, arguing the standards are inadequate. DOE is forced to investigate allegations of collusion between itself, its contractors, and the nuclear power industry to promote the repository. The release of the final Environmental Impact Statement is delayed until late 2001. 
     In 2002, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham recommends Yucca Mountain as a suitable site to President George W. Bush. Bush approves the recommendation. Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn exercises the State's right to veto the Yucca Mountain project. The project moves to Congress, where a simple majority in both houses is needed to overturn Guinn's veto. Yucca Mountain is debated and passed first in the House of Representatives and then more narrowly in the Senate. President Bush signs the joint resolution into law, officially designating Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository site. DOE begins work on its application for a license to build and run the repository. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) identifies 293 technical issues DOE must solve before submitting the license application. The State of Nevada files major lawsuits against DOE, NRC, Bush, and Abraham.  
     In 2003, DOE continues work on its license to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The project, however, is over-budget and behind schedule. Nevada's lawsuits against the Yucca Mountain repository are set for oral arguments in front of the D.C. Court of Appeals in September. DOE is scheduled to release a nuclear waste transportation plan sometime in the fall.
Geographic Site 2

     In Germany, a problem is also occurring. In Lower Saxony, there is the Asse salt dome. 124,000 drums of low and medium level radioactive waste were buried in the period of time up to 1978. Salt-domes are unsuitable as a repository for low and medium level waste. Also, high levels ad low/medium levels of waste should never be stored together. Therefore, the problem is now to locate not one, but two safe storage sites. In the Asse salt mine, two of the shafts going in have been flooded for some time, and now, the third passage is also under risk of a flood. Because of this, the German government decided in May of 2000 to stop dumping radioactive waste here.
     The most important salt dome in Germany is Gorleben. Since 1977, much research has been done there. It was discovered through this research that the salt dome lay in contact with groundwater. Obviously, this salt dome did not meet the most important criteria for efficacy. However, the Kohl government continued with the research, hoping for better results. The current Schröder government decided that Gorleben was unsuitable and stopped the research on June 14, 2000. DM 2.2 billion (equivalent to 1 billion in US dollars) had already been used for this research.
Nuclear power in Germany continues, and the amount of waste rises, but a certain radioactive waste repository is not yet available. There is now about 76,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste in temporary storage sites, and according to researchers, will rise to 300000 cubic meters in 2040. 
 
 

 
 
 
 
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