According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Nuclear Energy Institute is calling on the Obama Administration to create a blue-ribbon commission to look at alternatives to the nation’s current approach to nuclear waste management.

While blue-ribbon commissions are often excuses for doing nothing, a commission in this case has substantial merit.

Nuclear energy is critical to meeting the nation’s economic, environmental, and energy objectives. Despite being affordable, safe, abundant and environmentally clean, significant obstacles stand in the way of a broad expansion of U.S. nuclear power. Central among them is overcoming questions regarding nuclear waste.

In reality, dealing with nuclear waste is not a problem. America’s nuclear operators safely and effectively manage the waste of their 104 operating reactors everyday. Problems crop up when trying to develop longer-term, more permanent solutions. But even this is a political problem, not a technical one.


Developing a long-term strategy to manage America’s nuclear waste has always been important, but today it is critical. The U.S. is standing at the threshold of a nuclear renaissance that could transform how the nation generates energy. But for this to happen, the nation must come up with a workable solution for nuclear waste management.

This recognition has generated a lot of new ideas for reform in the past year.

The Nuclear Energy Institute developed a comprehensive strategy that includes interim storage, reprocessing, and long-term storage. Another idea brought forth includes creating a so-called “quasi-government entity” to manage the nation’s nuclear waste. And Heritage developed a plan to transfer responsibility for nuclear waste management to the private sector. Others have ideas floating around as well.

The point is that there are a lot of good ideas out there on how to reform nuclear waste management. And because there is growing appreciation for the fact that the nation needs to develop a better approach there might actually be an opportunity to bring about some change.

While a blue ribbon commission would have to be structured properly, have the right participants, and be charged with an appropriate mission, it could be the right vehicle to assess all of these ideas, come up with some new ones, and develop a set of recommendations that could put the country on a clear path towards a sustainable nuclear renaissance.

 Jack Spencer, Heritage Research Fellow in Nuclear Energy, authored this post.