2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


HASAN, Syed E., Dept. of Geosciences, Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City, 5100 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110-2499, hasans@umkc.edu

After the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939, the first nuclear chain reaction in a reactor took place at the University of Chicago in 1942 as part of the Manhattan Project. By the early 1950s nuclear fission had evolved into a viable technology for power generation, and many countries have been utilizing nuclear materials to meet their need of electric power for the past 55 years. As of June 2005, 440 nuclear power plants were operating in 30 countries, generating about 366.8 GW of power that meets 16% of the global electricity demand. In the United States, 20% of all energy generated comes from nuclear power plants. Following a 20-year period of dormancy, after the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents, interest in nuclear energy has staged a comeback and 27 new nuclear power plants are currently under construction, 2/3 of them located in South Asia. Regardless of the use of nuclear materials—for civilian or military purpose—the waste that is generated is extremely hazardous and capable of causing serious harm to living forms and the environment. While low and intermediate level radioactive wastes are being disposed of in an appropriate manner, high level radioactive waste is still stored at temporary locations awaiting disposal at permanent facilities, none of which exists today anywhere in the world. This, despite the fact that 270,000 metric tons of high level radioactive waste has accumulated in 30 countries, to which an additional 9,000 metric tons are being added annually. The presentation discusses the history of the use of nuclear energy, its global utilization, status of high level radioactive waste program, and measures being taken by various countries for its management on both short- and long-term basis. Also included is a discussion of the progress being made by Finland, Sweden, and the U.S.A. in moving forward towards finalizing permanent disposal facilities.