Nuclear waste? 6 reasons we changed our mind

Nuclear power is very low carbon and is one of the safest energy sources ever. But what about the waste?

There’s so much fake news and deliberate myth making around nuclear waste that it’s totally understandable to be worried about it. Most of us at Energy for Humanity used to worry too, but here’s the top 6 reasons reasons we changed our mind and have even grown to love the stuff.

1. There’s hardly any of it

If you took all of the nuclear waste created by all the nuclear power plants in the whole of the US and stacked it on one football field it would only stack to a height of around 9 metres. A coal plant creates a similar amount of wast every hour!

2. Its not green goo 

Nuclear waste doesn’t look anything like what you see on The Simpsons. It’s a solid when it goes into the reactor and when it comes out. It’s arranged as a series of metal rods that contain ceramic uranium pellets inside.  

3. It can be used again as fuel

All of the waste from today’s reactors can be recycled as fuel for the next generation of reactors. These advanced reactors – known as ‘Fast Neutron Reactors’ – operate on what’s called a ‘closed fuel cycle’ meaning they can burn up the waste as fuel. Because they’re more efficient they can get around 100 times more energy out of the original uranium. 

4. It’s full of insane amounts of low-carbon energy

Using fast reactors, Britain has enough nuclear waste to power the entire country for… 500 years!  In the USA, that football field’s worth of spent fuel could power the states for 1,000 years! All without mining another piece of uranium. So it’s time to stop thinking about it as ‘waste’ at all. In reality it’s the next generation’s ultimate low-carbon energy solution.

Just try hugging a broken solar panel…

5. It’s totally contained

Nuclear is the only power source that completely contains its waste products and carefully looks after them. Most spent fuel rods end up sitting in big concrete containers on land. Burning fossil fuels, which provides 84% of the world’s energy,  directly sends toxic waste into our environment. As a result an estimated 7 million people die from air pollution ever year. Even renewables don’t always reliably contain their waste; a large amount of solar panels and wind turbines end up in landfill and can pollut our soil with toxic metals. By comparison, even if it’s not used up as fuel, once nuclear waste is encased in concrete it’s so safely contained you can give it a hug.

6. Terrorists aren’t that into it after all

Ever heard someone warn that terrorists will use nuclear waste in some crazy dirty bomb? Yep, we heard that too. It used to scare us – at least until we realised how implausible it is. The only terrorist attack EVER to take place on a nuclear power pant was actually by a Green Party politician who in 1982 fired 5 rocket-propelled grenades at an unfinished power plant. So why haven’t other terrorists bothered with it? Quite simply because, contrary to public perception, nuclear waste isn’t explosive. If you wanted to use it for a bomb you’d need a crane capable of lifting a 100-ton canister of spent fuel rods, an 18 wheel truck to transport it and an enormous government regulated reprocessing facility to extract anything bomb-worthy from it. 


The argument that nuclear power is immoral because we’re leaving a toxic legacy for a hundred thousand years is simply no longer true. The real toxic legacy we’re leaving is the rapid build up of atmospheric CO2 and the irreversible damage to the climate that will ensue if we don’t reverse this trend within our lifetime.