Thursday, September 01, 2005

Don't worry, be happy (nuclear waste edition)

John, guest-blogging at Battlepanda, is writing an interesting series on energy and Peak Oil. In his latest post, he discusses various alternatives, and makes the standard point that nuclear waste is an "essentially insoluble" problem.

I've never agreed with this. As long as you aren't exceptionally stupid with it, nuclear waste isn't dangerous to society. The problem with nuclear waste is that we set ridiculously high standards for its disposal. People are complaining that Yucca mountain isn't guaranteed to store the stuff safely for 100,000 years. Come on. This is one problem we should clearly leave to our descendents, who will have much greater technology to deal with it than we will. Let's just procrastinate. Put the stuff into storage in a couple guarded warehouses somewhere for a hundred years. When our descendents address the problem in 2100, they'll do a much better job with their spaceships and robots than we will with our technology.

This is not to say that the current system of storing nuclear waste in sites scattered across the nation isn't stupid. But we're making the storage problem much harder on ourselves than we need to.

The points here were made at greater length in the cover story of last December's Technology Review, but for the record I'd come to this conclusion long before reading that article :)