Private firms pay the government a fixed fee to dispose of the waste they produce. Currently, the federal government collects a flat fee of 0.1 cents per kilowatt hour from nuclear energy producers to dispose of used fuel. Though it has collected billions of dollars in these fees, the government has failed to provide the services it’s obligated to supply.
By privatizing nuclear waste management, companies would have to bear responsibility for the nuclear waste that they produce. Firms would have incentive to use fuel more efficiently and to develop cost-effective methods of managing their waste. For instance, given that almost 95% of spent fuel potentially could be reused for energy, firms might choose to recycle spent fuel rather than place it in repositories. When nuclear waste can be managed more cheaply and effectively, the cost of providing nuclear power will fall. Many groups stand to benefit from this: manufacturers who depend on reliable, low-cost electricity, and retail consumers who want to spend less on their electricity bills.
Critics may argue that nuclear waste is simply too dangerous to be handled by private corporations. Yet, private industry already routinely handles numerous forms of hazardous waste, including arsenic, asbestos, and cyanide, without much public comment. In contrast to government, private firms have incentive to dispose of hazardous materials safely and cost-efficiently.
Since 1982, the federal government has been charged with managing nuclear waste, and failed to meet this obligation. It is too dangerous to allow government to continue to do nothing to manage nuclear waste. The best solution is to allow markets to work freely.