What’s Worse, Nuclear Waste of the United States’ Failed Policy for Its Disposal?

Christopher M. Keegan *

The United States of America is a nuclear nation. Despite individuals and organizations opposed to nuclear energy,[1] the reality is that nuclear power is an integral part of our nation and world.[2] In the United States specifically, nuclear power plays a vital role. Just less than 20% of the electricity produced in the United States comes from nuclear power.[3] Sixty-one commercial nuclear power plants currently operate in thirty states.[4] Furthermore, nuclear power is the most abundant clean energy source, accounting for roughly 60% of the non-fossil fuel electricity generated in the United States.[5] Additionally, the United States Navy is built around nuclear energy. As of 2009, approximately 45% of the Navy’s ships were nuclear powered, with 103 reactors powering eleven aircraft carriers and seventy-one submarines.[6]

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*  J.D. Candidate, 2016, University of Richmond School of Law. M.E.M., 2013, Old Dominion University; B.S., 2007, United States Naval Academy. I must express my extreme gratitude to Casey, for years of listening to me talk about nuclear power.  Thank you also to the University of Richmond Law Review’s editors and staff whose tireless and thankless work has made this comment possible.

        [1].    See generally Karl S. Coplan, The Externalities of Nuclear Power: First, Assume We Have a Can Opener . . . , 35 Ecology L. Currents 17 (2008) (arguing that the benefits of nuclear power are not worth the long term impacts of nuclear energy production).

        [2].    See Alex Funk & Benjamin K. Sovacool, Wasted Opportunities: Resolving the Impasse in United States Nuclear Waste Policy, 34 Energy L.J. 113, 114 (2013) (stating that nuclear power accounts for 13.5% of the world’s electricity).

        [3].    Nuclear Explained, U.S. Energy Info. Admin., http://www.eia.gov/energyexplain ed/index.cfm?page=nuclear_home#tab2 (last updated Sept. 8, 2014).

        [4].    How Many Nuclear Power Plants Are in the United States, and Where Are They Located?, Frequently Asked Questions, U.S. Energy Info. Admin., http://www.eia.gov/ tools/faqs/faq/cfm?id=207&t=3 (last updated Jan. 22, 2015); see also Nuclear Power in the USA, World Nuclear Ass’n, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Count ries-T-Z/USA-Nuclear–Power/ (last updated Feb. 2015).

        [5].    See What Is U.S. Electricity Generation by Energy Source?, U.S. Energy Info. Admin., http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3 (last updated June 13, 2014) (stating that 67% of electricity in the United States is generated by fossil fuels and 19% by nuclear; therefore, nuclear energy accounts for 57% of the remaining 33% of energy not generated by fossil fuels).

        [6].    U.S. Dep’t of Energy & U.S. Dep’t of the Navy, The United States Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program 1 (2009).