Not in my backyard!

Spent Fuel

In many ways, nuclear power remains a perfectly reasonable stopgap as the world attempts to wean itself off environmentally harmful fossil fuels: it's pretty safe overall, it generates a steady supply of power around the clock, and it's well understood.

Of course, there are also those pesky disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima, which are rare but horrifying. And maybe even messier are the constant debates over where to store the spent fuel that's left over after nuclear plants use it to generate electricity.

To see just how convoluted that issue can become, look no further than this fascinating Wall Street Journal story about a much-resisted plan to store nuclear waste in America's most active oil field — a fascinating collision between fossil and post-fossil energy that underscores an undeniable truth at the heart of the nuclear debate: nobody wants this stuff in their backyard.

Wasted Youth

The plan, in which Florida energy company Holtec International intends to store up to 170,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in the Permian Basin oil field in Texas, would make the location the largest spent fuel facility in the world. Unfortunately, the people who are already there are none too pleased.

"I’m not antinuclear," Fasken Oil and Ranch assistant general manager Tommy Taylor told the WSJ. "We just don’t feel like siting all the nuclear waste in the middle of our biggest oil and gas resource is a good idea."

Taylor told the newspaper that he's worried about threats ranging from terrorism to nuclear contamination.

But advocates say the waste has to go somewhere, since plans to centralize storage for the horrible stuff at locations like Yucca Mountain keep falling through. Instead, the waste tends to pile up at the site of reactors, leaving it vulnerable to spillage, theft by terrorists, or other grim eventualities.

"The U.S. has to gird its loins and actually deal with the problem of what they’re going to do with this material in the long run," former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Allison Macfarlane told the WSJ.

More on nuclear power: AI Data Centers Need So Much Power They May Need Built-In Nuclear Reactors

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