U.S. Nuclear Storage Sites Filled to the Brim

The continuing nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant has brought attention to an ever-growing problem in the U.S.: the alarming amount of radioactive waste accumulating at commercial nuclear reactors. Currently, the U.S. has 104 operating nuclear reactors, situated on 65 sites in 31 states, and another 15 shuttered reactors that still house spent fuel. About three-quarters of the waste sits in water-filled cooling pools like those at Fukushima Daiichi, while the rest has been put into dry cask storage—but those only last a maximum of 100 years, not the necessary tens of thousands of years. The U.S. currently has 71,862 tons of the waste, according to state-by-state data accumulated by the Associated Press. The government had spent $9 billion developing a project to house the fuel at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, which is designed to hold 77,160 tons of waste, but the Obama administration cut the funding and recalled the application to build it, despite their desire to expand nuclear power. Meanwhile, the collective pile of nuclear waste is growing by 2,200 tons a year.