While retrievability of waste after emplacement is a desirable feature of a test facility, and such a facility would be useful for a research and development program, retrievability ought not to be a consideration in designing a repository for actual waste disposal.
These recommendations agree substantially with those of the American Physical Society’s “Report to the American Physical Society by the Study Group on Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Waste Management.”20
Putting these recommendations into effect may involve serious political difficulty.* Most states and communities would like nuclear wastes to be disposed of elsewhere, and some have imposed virtual bans on waste treatment and other fuel cycle operations. This raises important legal and constitutional questions about the limitations of federal power to overrule state and municipal land-use laws. This committee did not consider itself competent to judge these issues.
The principal sources of public concern with nuclear power are not merely technical, but institutional and social as well. Questions about technical approaches to proliferation control, reactor safety, and waste management are largely expressions of concern about whether human beings and institutions can be relied on over the long term to manage radioactive wastes, ensure reactor safety, and secure weapons-usable material.
The accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania has heightened this concern. It occurred late in this committee’s deliberations, and it is still too early for final judgments in detail. However, what the committee has learned about it thus far has not led it to change its assessment of the physical risks of nuclear power; chapter 9, in the section on the health impacts of energy production and use, discusses this event and its likely impact on human health (which is very small).† Public opinion of the accident and its implications, however, is vital, and it is probably too early to know how that will be expressed. Major studies of the accident and its consequences are underway throughout the world; notable in this country are an investigation by a specially appointed Presidential commission and one by the Electric Power Research Institute’s newly formed Nuclear Safety Analysis Center. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in reaction to the accident, may impose additional safety requirements on nuclear reactors.
Other aspects of the appraisal of nuclear power reflect individual views