With energy demands increasing and legislators pushing for carbon constraining policy, more people are turning their heads to commercial nuclear energy. Although many environmentalists, including Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, continue to espouse nuclear energy, skeptics and also political candidates are asking, “What about nuclear waste?”
There are solutions for nuclear waste, and other countries are carrying out these solutions on a daily basis. For example, France has successfully recycled over 23,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel. As The Heritage Foundation’s Research Fellow Jack Spencer notes, the French, Japanese, Indians, and British all perform some level of recycling. Spencer also asserts that U.S. developed recycling technologies over three decades ago; unfortunately, government regulation banned its commercial use.
Leave it to market ingenuity and market forces to address the problem. The Catholic University of America’s Vitreous State Laboratory has attracted some of the world’s best glass scientists to convert radioactive nuclear waste into solid glass. While the material remains radioactive, it is undoubtedly safer and more easily contained. The laboratory’s innovation and market-oriented approach has turned 2.6 million pounds of radioactive waste into safe storage. Moreover, the lab contracted to facilitate stabilizing the 54 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste in Hanford, Washington. Catholic’s VSL attracts a number contract offers for two essential reasons – they are cost effective and more efficient.
U.S. energy policy must recognize the importance of unleashing free enterprise. Nuclear energy, always scrutinized under a microscope, consistently depends on entrepreneurship to answer public policy questions concerning the safety of nuclear energy and spent nuclear fuel. It was entrepreneurial ingenuity that developed the technology to recycle spent nuclear fuel in the 1970s, and it will be the same ingenuity that moves the nuclear renaissance forward in the coming years.