The Trail Left Behind From The Nuclear Race: Radioactive Waste

Author:Austin McCarthy
Position:Emory University School of Law
Pages:287-326
SUMMARY

This article presents a discussion on the issue of the permanent disposal of radioactive waste. First, this article discusses the issues the United States has faced in terms of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and Yucca Mountain. Second, this article looks at the issue on a global scale. Lastly, this article addresses how a solution can be found through multinational cooperation with the... (see full summary)

 
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e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
http://www.ijil.org
© 2019 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
thE trail lEft BEhind from thE
nuClEar raCE:
radIoaCtIve Waste
Austin McCarthy
Emory University School of Law
E-mail: austin.mccarthy@emory.edu
is article presents a discussion on the issue of the permanent disposal of ra-
dioactive waste. First, this article discusses the issues the United States has faced
in terms of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and Yucca Mountain. Second,
this article looks at the issue on a global scale. Lastly, this article addresses how a
solution can be found through multinational cooperation with the assistance of
the International Atomic Energy Agency. e article seeks to highlight the com-
mon issues that many countries face, and push toward a multinational solution.
e mechanism by which this is accomplished starts with a focus on the United
States, followed by connecting the issue beyond the United States’ borders.
Keywords: International Environmental Law, Waste Management Law, International
Governance, International Disaster Response Law.
VI Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 287-326 (April 2019)
288
McCarthy
INTRODUCTION
Radioactivity is a natural feature of the environment. It is a phenom-
enon that has many benecial applications, such as power generation
and uses in medicine.1 Risks to people and the environment are a by-
product that coincides with the use of radioactive material to reap its
useful application. Risk of danger and misuse needs to be controlled
and addressed to minimize the negative side eects of the benecial
uses.2 Regulating the safety of radioactive materials is a national re-
sponsibility, but radiation risks can transcend borders and cause eects
on an international level.3
e safe disposal of radioactive waste and spent fuel, continues to
be a problem faced by countries that use nuclear power for electricity
generation and those that use radioactive material for medical,
research, and industrial purposes.4 e main concern stems from long-
lived radioactive waste that requires special treatment to make sure it
is isolated from people and the biosphere long enough for the decay of
radioactivity.5 Generally, it is accepted that the only method to manage
long-lived waste eectively is to permanently dispose of it in a geological
repository6 e repository will be lled with radioactive waste until it
is full, then eventually sealed and closed to hold the radioactive waste.7
Despite this widespread acknowledgement, long-lived waste continues
1. Int’l Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], IAEA Safety Standards Series No. SSR-
14: Geological Disposal Facilities For Radioactive Waste, at vii, IAEA Doc. STI/
PUB/1483 (Sept. 2011).
2. Id .
3. Int’l Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], Framework and Challenges for Initiating
Multinational Cooperation for the Development of a Radioactive Waste Reposi-
tory, at 1, IAEA Doc. No. NW-T-1.5 (Mar. 2016).
4. Id .
5. Id .
6. Id . A geological repository is an underground geological facility that is con-
structed through excavation to hold and process radioactive materials for per-
manent disposal. Id.
7. Henry Fountain, On Nuclear Waste, Finland Shows U.S. How It Can Be Done,
T N Y T (June 9, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/09/
science/nuclear-reactor-waste-nland.html.
289
e Trail Le Behind From e Nuclear Race: Radioactive Waste
McCarthy
to pile up without a permanent disposal facility.
Yucca Mountain is symbolic of the diculties in achieving a solution
to the permanent disposal of radioactive waste. e United States has
studied the Yucca Mountain site for years as a potential repository
location, but has failed to continue development (defunded in 2012)
of the location.8 e need to permanently dispose of the radioactive
waste has been identied, but the successful completion of siting a
location for the repository has not been reached. On an international
level, concerns regarding safety and voluntary consent to a repository
siting location have prevented the creation of a functioning radioactive
waste repository. is article seeks to establish that the International
Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and a multinational repository
have developed advanced safety standards and economic benets
that make multinational cooperation the best answer to dealing with
radioactive waste.
First, the article will discuss the background of nuclear waste
produced in the United States. To do this I will provide a framework
of how nuclear waste is produced and how it is currently being stored
once produced. e article will then address the United States’ attempt
to create a contractual solution to radioactive waste disposal. Second,
the article will explore the diculy other countries who produce
radioactive waste have encountered in attempt to permanently dispose
of the radioactive waste. ird, the article will introduce a solution
focused on multinational cooperation. Fourth, the article will address
why a multinational solution is the best option available to permanently
dispose of radioactive waste in the United States. Fih, the article will
address multiple criticisms to the multinational framework.
I. A HISTORY OF NUCLEAR WASTE IN
THE UNITED STATES
Nuclear technology has been used as an important source of power
production in the United States, which le an abundance of waste as
residue from energy production. e United States contains sixty com-
8. Id .

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