Energy Department Wants to Redefine Nuclear Waste

The U.S. Department of Energy is asking Congress for the power to redefine some nuclear waste to allow it to be left where it is or disposed of at low-level radioactive waste sites instead of buried deep underground. The waste in question consists of tens of millions of gallons of salts and sludges left over from weapons production in Idaho, South Carolina, and Washington, as well as waste from a reprocessing plant near Buffalo, N.Y. The DOE has chosen Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the site for its underground repository for high-level nuke waste, but the site isn’t scheduled to open for years, and if and when it does, it won’t be big enough to hold all of the nation’s high-level waste, so the DOE is looking for disposal alternatives. “This is DOE’s attempt to pawn off highly contaminated stuff on the state,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday. “We are fighting it.”