Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology Awarded $2 Million Grant to Assess Public Perception of Nuclear Waste Sites
Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have recently received a $2 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct research on interim storage sites for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. The DOE is exploring a consent-based approach to find communities willing to store nuclear waste until a permanent solution is found. As part of this initiative, the S&T team will assess and document the concerns of St. Louis area residents who live near legacy waste sites where national defense-related nuclear material is stored.
The federal government has long considered storing nuclear waste in a repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. However, the DOE has now ruled out this option, leading to new avenues for research and exploration. Missouri S&T’s involvement as one of 13 teams across the country reflects their commitment to finding alternative solutions for nuclear waste storage.
“Nuclear waste is often stored in specially designed storage pools or in dry containers,” explains Dr. Shoaib Usman, associate professor of nuclear engineering and radiation sciences at Missouri S&T. “While these storage methods are safe and secure, the DOE has a legal obligation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to take over this fuel for final disposal.”
The consent-based approach aims to work with communities that voluntarily agree to store nuclear materials temporarily until a more suitable long-term location can be established. The DOE is not currently soliciting specific communities, but rather focusing on understanding community perceptions and concerns related to nuclear waste storage.
Dr. Usman emphasizes that their goal is not to convince legacy site communities that nuclear waste is safe but rather to capture their feelings, concerns, and needs while educating them further on the issue. By engaging with residents living close to existing legacy sitesthe research team hopes to gain valuable insights that will inform the DOE’s future decisions.
As part of the project, residents will receive education on four main topics related to nuclear waste: the nuclear fuel cycle, radiological pathways, health physics, and the concept of risk. The research team will then survey community members to assess how this information has influenced their opinions.
“Many people in these communities have been directly affected by nuclear waste storage or hold strong feelings about it,” says Dr. Usman. “Their input and perspectives will be invaluable for the DOE as it progresses through the next stages of this initiative.”
The grant project is expected to conclude in May 2025 and involves collaboration with partner institutions such as the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Saint Louis University, and the University of Missouri. These subject matter experts will help educate community members about nuclear waste and its implications.
Missouri S&T is a STEM-focused research university located in Rolla, Missouri. With over 7,000 students, it offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and ranks among the top 10 universities in the country for return on investment according to Business Insider.(1)
About S&T of Missouri
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university with more than 7,000 students. As part of the University of Missouri’s four-campus system and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the top 10 universities in the country for return on investment, according to Business Insider.(2)