Georgia Public Service Commissioner Proposes Solution For Nuclear Waste Issue
(WGXA) - Right now, if you're a Georgia Power customer, you're paying nearly $6 billion toward the expansion of nuclear power in Georgia.
It's viewed as a clean alternative and today's reactors are considered much safer than the old systems, but once the fuel is used up it leaves behind waste that can remain dangerously radioactive for 10,000 years.
Currently, that waste is stored on site at the plants, but there is new technology to recycle and reuse much of that waste.
Plant Vogtle is one of two nuclear plants in Georgia. It's where a new multi-billion dollar expansion is happening right now.
"It is our hedge against rising gas prices and other forms of energy, it's something that's important to our state but in order to make it sustainable we need to be processing the waste," said Tim Echols.
Echols is a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, which oversees utility regulation for the state. He's an advocate of recycling nuclear waste.
But right now, that's not allowed because of an order signed under president Jimmy Carter around 40 years ago.
Since then, places like France have implemented nuclear waste recycling programs.
"So, it's much more sustainable in the long haul, to find a storage facility, reprocess it, and the French re-use 96 percent of it," Echols said.
That's right, the French are already recycling nuclear waste. There's a catch though. In France the government is heavily involved in power production. Georgia Tech Nuclear Engineer Dr. Nolan Hertel has seen the facilities there. But he said right now nuclear recycling doesn't make financial sense for U.S. power producers.
"They can buy fresh fuel based on a mined uranium or down-blended uranium from weapons cheaper than they can recycle the material and use it," he said.