Nuclear energy offers several advantages: It's clean, powerful and relatively cheap. But it also yields hazardous waste, a fact that terrifies a public haunted by memories of accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear reactors. In America, about 60,000 tonnes of heavy nuclear energy byproducts sit in radioactive dumps, with no potential use and no expiration date in sight, while federal experts rack their brains for a better way to manage nuclear waste. Several energy companies say they have a solution to the waste issue: Recycling, basically squeezing more energy from already-used nuclear fuel while leaving less waste behind.
But their efforts face a decades-old policy hurdle that offers them little incentive to pursue the process. "When it comes to energy, America is strong on technology but weak on policy," said GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Chairman John Fuller. "And it's a critical handicap."
A Carter-era law keeps all used fuel from American commercial reactors in federal hands, and the government has determined it must be stored.
Ironically, the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, developed spent fuel reprocessing technology in the late 1980s to mid-1990s, in collaboration with energy companies. But the program closed when the National Academy of Sciences proclaimed it economically unsustainable.
U.S. Congress has approved the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada as the official storage dump for U.S. nuclear waste. But President Barack Obama, fulfilling a campaign pledge, has cut off funding for the facility and wants to find alternatives.
jaderný odpad, vyhořelé palivo
to rack a brain
lámat si hlavu
to yield - vytvářet, produkovat
hazardous - nebezpečný
dump - skládka