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Vertical dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuel is depicted here.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Book Chapter - Springer Nature

Nuclear Waste

| Aug. 01, 2023

This chapter appears in Handbook of the Anthropocene: Humans between Heritage and Future.

Nuclear waste epitomizes the Anthropocene. Scientific discovery of nuclear fission in the 1930s ushered in the atomic age. The onset of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy production in the 1940s and 1950s then created a uniquely human problem with planetary implications. Today, 33 countries operate 442 nuclear power reactors, and nine countries possess nearly 13,000 nuclear arms. The result is high-level waste that is dangerously radioactive for millennia to come. Yet, there has never been a permanent waste solution in place. Technically feasible long-term nuclear waste storage options exist, but nearly all governments prefer riskier interim plans hidden from public view and debate. This chapter considers the likelihood of societies addressing the contentious environmental and economic politics of deep geological repositories; and it asks, how long will obfuscation of the risks of this unique Anthropocene challenge continue?