Research published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists warns if nuclear waste management is not thought out from the beginning, the public in many countries will reject nuclear power as an energy choice.
Leaving consideration of storage solutions for nuclear waste to the last minute is a problem in a number of countries besides Japan, said Allison Macfarlane, associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. In South Korea, for example, storage space at the nation's four nuclear plants is filling up, leading to a potential storage crisis within the next decade, experts say.
The United Arab Emirates broke ground March 14 on the first of four nuclear reactors but has not prioritized storage, they say.
"The question of a final disposal plan is still open and more attention should be spent on deciding what to do," Hans Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said.
In every type of energy production, profits come the front end of the process rather than in waste management at the back end, Macfarlane says, but a failure to plan for waste disposal can undo all those profits.
Countries should include spent fuel storage in their nuclear power plans from the start, rather than improvising solutions after spent fuel has already begun to build up, she says.