Stewarts’ New Book Diagnoses U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Failures

University Professor Richard Stewart and his wife Jane Stewart ’79, have just published Fuel Cycle to Nowhere: U.S. Law and Policy on Nuclear Waste. The Obama Administration’s abandonment of the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada—the sole destination for disposal of nuclear waste—has created a crisis as waste continues to pile up at nuclear power plants. The book analyzes the roots of the crisis and proposes solutions.

The Fukushima disaster in Japan and the continuing threat of terrorist attacks on the 65  operating nuclear reactor sites across the country that currently store wastes make solutions all the more urgent. The Stewarts offer fresh strategies, based on consent by informed host localities and states, new funding mechanism, and a new federal corporation to manage waste – for developing a new waste repository to bury wastes as well as consolidated interim storage facilities. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future appointed by President Obama, to which Professor Stewart presented last November, recently issued draft recommendations that track many of the proposals made in the book.

Fuel Cycle to Nowhere provides the first comprehensive history and overview of U.S. nuclear waste law and regulation. The Stewarts trace sixty years of nuclear weapons programs, the growth of nuclear power, their waste legacies, the rise of environmentalism, and the responses of federal agencies. They examine a success—the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, known as WIPP, the world’s only operating deep geologic nuclear waste disposal facility—but also many failures, including Yucca Mountain. The lessons learned from these experiences provide the foundation for the book’s policy recommendations.