In “Deep Time: The End of an Engagement” (Issues, Spring 2021), Başak Saraç-Lesavre describes in succinct and painful detail the flawed US policy for managing nuclear waste. She weaves through a series of missteps, false starts, and dead-ends that have stymied steady progress and helped to engender our present state—which she describes as “deadlocked.” Her description and critique are not meant to showcase political blunders, but to caution that the present stasis is, in effect, a potentially treacherous policy decision. The acceptance of essentially doing nothing and consigning the waste to a decentralized or centralized storage configuration is in fact a decision and a de facto policy. To make the situation worse, this status quo was not reached mindfully, but is the result of mangled planning, political reboots, and the present lack of a viable end-state option. Although there may be some merit to accepting a truly interim phase of storing nuclear waste prior to an enduring disposal solution, the interim plan must be tied to a final solution. As decreed in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and reinforced by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, centralized interim storage was to be the bridge to somewhere. But the bridge is now looking like the destination, and it would be naive not to view it as another disincentive to an already anemic will to live up to the initial intent.
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