International Regulation, Comparative and Contextual Perspectives
- New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 9: Nuclear waste
The last chapter in this book is about nuclear waste. The reason that this waste stream has a specifically dedicated chapter is because this is the most hazardous of all waste types. Ironically, when the management of nuclear considerations was first legislated for in a domestic setting with the 1946 Atomic Energy Act of the United States, the topic of waste was not in the remit of consideration. However, within a dozen years, this was the very the first type of waste to be specifically focused upon by international law. By the end of the century, once it had become apparent that this was likely to be the last waste left on the planet, tens of thousands of years from now, it became a dominant international concern. Despite this concern, and over four decades of debate, the only international rule that is certain is that it should not be dumped into the ocean. Rather, it should be reprocessed to minimise the amount and/or then set into deep geological storage. There are, however, significant problems with both of these options. The recycling in the context of nuclear material is known as reprocessing. Reprocessing is a term largely restricted to nuclear matters, meaning a process or operation, the purpose of which is to extract radioactive isotopes from spent fuel for further use.
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