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Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4390; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124390

Mission Impossible? Socio-Technical Integration of Nuclear Waste Geological Disposal Systems

1
Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
2
Amphos 21 Consulting S.L., C/Venezuela 103, 08019 Barcelona, Spain
3
Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 November 2018 / Revised: 19 November 2018 / Accepted: 20 November 2018 / Published: 24 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nuclear Waste Management and Sustainability of Nuclear Systems)
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Abstract

We present a new perspective on geological disposal systems for nuclear waste. Geological disposal systems encompass all the processes required for the permanent isolation of highly-radioactive materials from humans and the biosphere. Radioactive materials requiring geological disposal are created by commercial nuclear power plants, research reactors, and defense-related nuclear activities, such as spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors and high-level waste from reprocessing to reclaim fissile material for weapons. We show that disposal systems are so complex that new methods of representation are required. Despite the common call for a systems approach, a broader perspective is needed to obtain an integrated view of disposal systems. We introduce a conceptual formalism of geological disposal systems based on a multi-scale integrated analysis approach. This ‘metabolic’ representation allows one to account for the technical complexity of disposal systems in relation to their broader societal context. Although the paper is conceptual, the integrated formalism can improve the understanding of the complexity of disposal systems and their policy requirements by connecting technical solutions with societal constraints. However, the paper also reveals the limits to efforts to integrate technical and social dimensions of geological disposal systems into a single formalism. View Full-Text
Keywords: radioactive waste; spent nuclear fuel; high-level waste; transuranic waste; geological disposal; repository design; Yucca Mountain; WIPP; integrated analysis; knowledge organization; complex systems; science-policy radioactive waste; spent nuclear fuel; high-level waste; transuranic waste; geological disposal; repository design; Yucca Mountain; WIPP; integrated analysis; knowledge organization; complex systems; science-policy
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Diaz-Maurin, F.; Ewing, R.C. Mission Impossible? Socio-Technical Integration of Nuclear Waste Geological Disposal Systems. Sustainability 2018, 10, 4390.

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