The nuclear waste management and disposal program in the United States for highly radioactive waste (spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste) has thus far been unsuccessful despite an effort that spans 40 years and the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars. Yet, today, there is considerable interest in and promotion of advanced reactor technologies, such as small modular reactors that will expand spent fuel inventories that may very well remain at the site where they are generated, awaiting permanent, geologic disposal. We examine critical elements of the US legal and regulatory framework that have impeded the success of the US program. We make recommendations on steps that are required for a successful nuclear waste program, particularly considering the development of advanced nuclear reactors and their fuel cycles.


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