Where Nuclear Spent Fuel Is Stored
The map shows how much spent nuclear fuel is stored in each state. The measurement is metric tons. Illinois has by far the most - 12,475 tons - while no other state has one-third as much. Pennsylvania is second at 3727 tons and Alabama third. Most of the spent fuel is concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic region and in the Southeast. . The national total is 57,000 tons.
Nearly all this is stored at nuclear reactors. The majority are in spent fuel pools but some utilities have been moving fuel assemblies to above-ground dry cask storage after the fuel has been in storage pools for more than a decade. Ultimately the material is supposed to be headed for Yucca Mountain or some repository like it. Yucca Mountain is designed to hold 77,000 tons of fuel.
The "problem of nuclear waste" is basically the result of the country's rejection of reprocessing technology. By separating the highly radioactive actinides and fission products from mildly reactive uranium-239, the natural isotope, "nuclear waste" can be reduced by 95 percent. France does this and stores all its high-level waste from 40 years of producing 75 percent of its electricity with nuclear beneath the floor or one room at Le Hague. But the US banned reprocessing in the 1970s under the illusion that we were preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the technology has never been revived. A reprocessing plant for spent nuclear material from the weapons program has been under construction in South Carolina for five years, built by France's Areva, but President Obama is now attempting to cut off completion of the facility as the behest of his environmental supporters.