Rolling out a welcome mat for waste

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Science  10 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6244, pp. 135
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6244.135

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As the U.S. government struggles to find a place to put the nation's hottest nuclear waste, one region has emerged as an eager suitor. In the flat, desert country along the border between Texas and New Mexico, two groups are pursuing competing plans to store some of the 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel rods now housed at 75 spots around the country. A third company is prospecting for a potential site in the area as well. The region is increasingly familiar with the business of nuclear material. Already, it hosts the government's only site opened for buying lower level radioactive waste, a uranium enrichment factory, and the country's largest private nuclear waste disposal site. The new interest is welcomed by policymakers in the Obama administration. They are trying to set a new course for disposing of the country's nuclear waste, after abandoning plans to put much of it in Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The U.S. Energy Department now hopes to find a place to store spent fuel rods for decades. At the same time, it's preparing to recruit communities willing to host sites for permanently burying either commercial spent fuel or waste left from building nuclear bombs.