Illinois is leading the nation when it comes to radioactive waste. Of the estimated 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel generated by the country’s nuclear power plants, 13 percent of it is stashed in Illinois at those plants, according to Nuclear Energy Institute. David Kraft, director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, says that’s not surprising, since Illinois has the more nuclear reactors than any other state.
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The solution preferred by the plants is to create separate secure disposal sites. That could result in even more radioactive waste being stored in the state. “Because a 2012 report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory put Illinois first on the list, according to certain parameters, to take on the waste at reactors that are already closed down,” Kraft said. Kraft says that would bring 9,000 tons of additional waste, doubling the current amount. The U.S. government has been required by law to haul waste from nuclear power plants to disposal sites since 1998. That has never been done, however, because no sites have ever been built.
The long-term solution, according to Kraft, is a “permanent, deep, geological repository” for the spent nuclear fuel. In the short term, however, Kraft says the best option is to keep the waste on site at the power plants, as long as the storage method being used is safe.