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Can Sisyphus Succeed? Getting U.S. High-Level Nuclear Waste into a Geological Repository


D. Warner North, NorthWorks, Inc., 1715 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94133-3607, USA;


The U.S. government has the obligation of managing the high-level radioactive waste from its defense activities and also, under existing law, from civilian nuclear power generation. This obligation is not being met. The January 2012 Final Report from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future provides commendable guidance but little that is new. The author, who served on the federal Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board from 1989 to 1994 and subsequently on the Board on Radioactive Waste Management of the National Research Council from 1994 to 1999, provides a perspective both on the Commission's recommendations and a potential path toward progress in meeting the federal obligation. By analogy to Sisyphus of Greek mythology, our nation needs to find a way to roll the rock to the top of the hill and have it stay there, rather than continuing to roll back down again.