Yes, nuclear plant construction should be stalled until waste disposal issues are resolved. Having said that, however, it should not be the expensive, drawn-out process that currently exists. The scientific community has done a poor job of presenting unified and clearly stated solutions to the government and to the public, and in the absence of that, methods of waste disposal are hard to agree upon. The government has not been able to, nor should it have to, force any state to accept underground storage, even though millions of dollars have been spent developing this capability. This "not in my backyard" mentality will always exist, particularly in states with no history or experience in the nuclear arena. Therefore, other simpler, less costly options should be considered.
Surely we can do better than digging huge trenches and throwing waste into them. That's being done now, and it just can't be technology at its finest. The same is true of underground caverns, no matter how expensive, where the walls will eventually just fall in on the waste and it won't be seen again until there is a really large problem. Hanford and other contaminated sites have an abundance of land that can be used for storage without upsetting the local populations. Some years ago Hanford spent millions of dollars on the underground idea, and had to forego that possibility. We all know about the same, even larger, problem in Nevada. These possibilities frighten people, in no small part because the waste would not be visible for inspection and maintenance. Can we not remove that issue and use existing land to construct earthquake-proof, properly shielded, sturdy buildings that would allow contaminated material to be stored above ground, in secure facilities, subject to observation, monitoring and maintenance. This warehousing of contaminated material, typically stored in 55-gallon drums and other containers (including perhaps glass logs), could have automated monitoring for radioactivity, video cameras, and should resolve the fear factor, allowing storage for as long as needed or until a better method is found. The buildings and material could be viewed and inspected with whatever regularity is required. This has to be less costly overall, and, incidentally, would provide many construction jobs, along with other permanent jobs for security, control and supervision of the storage facilities after completion. If some items are too radioactive for this type storage, then come on Hanford scientists and engineers, think about it and design storage facilities accordingly. Let's stop trying to hide nuclear waste, and instead find a way to control and monitor it.
This relatively inexpensive solution may or may not need to be permanent, depending on future developments. At any rate, it shouldn't take a great deal of time to debate and approve a solution such as this one. There may be many more ideas out there. If you have one, let someone know. Resumption of nuclear plants doesn't have to wait until a process like this is completed -- it just has to be firmly decided upon so that construction can begin and everyone knows there is a place for the waste to be stored.
Sorry guys, too important a subject for a brief response.
-- MARC THOMPSON, University Place