Nuclear recycling would help Mississippi
It is the question that has hung over nuclear power for decades, and it has loomed large since President Obama pulled the plug on a government project to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada:
Is there a state willing to host a facility to process and hold the nation’s nuclear waste ?
Conventional wisdom holds that no state would be willing to accept such a role. However, the Mississippi Energy Institute recently floated the idea that Mississippi might consider hosting a facility to store and recycle used fuel shipped from nuclear power plants around the country.
Because used fuel is often mistaken for nuclear waste, some folks recoil at the idea of taking it in. But it contains large amounts of very valuable plutonium that can be recycled into a fuel for use in nuclear plants to produce more electricity. Recycling would give Mississippi a major industry, creating thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue for use in improving the state’s schools and highways. And since the amount of used fuel continues to increase steadily and the federal government is legally liable for its disposition, recycling and storing it would be worth a fortune.
Some maintain that storing used fuel is unsafe. But that’s a fallacy. That used fuel is being stored safely at Grand Gulf and other nuclear plants is based on evidence, fact and reality. But nuclear plants were built to produce electricity, not store used fuel indefinitely. Therefore, a centralized facility needs to hold the used fuel in concrete-and-steel casks until it can be recycled. Whatever nuclear materials in used fuel that cannot be recycled will need to be stored in a deep-geologic repository.
Getting Mississippians to take such a role can’t be done by government alone, but it can’t be done without leadership from government. Just as the Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Johnson administrations, among others, actively nurtured public works projects in Mississippi, some future administration will have to actively champion a used-fuel storage and recycling center. That’s the only way to develop a consent-based approach built on support from business and political groups and the people in communities throughout the state.