The country has $24 billion dollars tied up in a fund to create a permanent storage solution for spent nuclear fuel rods. Yet plants are stuffing spent rods into already-overfull, vulnerable, sometimes leaky pools of water. What the hell?

Basically, our nuclear waste is like a trust-fund kid in some wacky comedy, who can only get his inheritance if he uses it to settle down and makes something of himself. In this case, the money’s for one thing only: A permanent waste storage solution. Better temporary solutions would be easier to implement — no state wants to volunteer to host permanent nuclear fuel storage — but that’s not what the money is for. So the nuclear trust fund stays untouched, and the waste lives in a squat with all its friends even though it could have billions.

But that squat’s about to get condemned. The Fukushima disaster has drawn attention to the fact that our fuel storage solutions are woeful — we’re literally jiggling stuff around in the cooling pools, trying to make room to cram in more spent rods. And this stopgap isn’t exactly cheap — nuclear companies keep suing the government, to the tune of $956 million in payouts so far, for not doing more to provide storage. Meanwhile, billions remain untouched.

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