U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint said Friday the nation should recycle its used nuclear fuel, a move that could bring jobs to the state's Savannah River Site.
Recycling is one option for handling the nation's waste now that the Obama Administration has decided not to dispose of the waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Speaking at a forum in Augusta on how to handle the nation's growing burden of deadly atomic garbage, Graham said he believes nuclear fuel reprocessing can be done — and that the Savannah River Site near Aiken should be a leader in finding the best way to recycle radioactive trash.
"I'm very willing for the Savannah River site to be the research and the development facility for the nation to make that idea a reality,'' Graham, R-S.C., told the Blue Ribbon Panel on America's Nuclear Future, which held the hearing. "The goal of reprocessing and recycling is to reduce your storage footprint, right?''
The forum was held to get input on how the United States should resolve its nuclear waste problem. The nation has some 70,000 metric tons of the highly poisonous material. Much of that is building up at power plants, but some is at atomic weapons complexes such as SRS. The panel will make a recommendation to President Obama about what the nation should do.
Graham and DeMint were joined in their support by representatives of power companies and SRS boosters. No formal plan is on the table to reprocess fuel, but it is a controversial practice that has sparked discussion lately in South Carolina.
The idea is to re-use highly radioactive nuclear fuel, after it has been burned in power plants. That would prevent it from becoming waste that must be buried or stored, supporters say.
But the process can create its own toxic waste stream and it has plenty of detractors.
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