Richard K. Lester

Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


  • Unlocking Energy Innovation
  • Global Taiwan
  • Innovation - The Missing Dimension
  • Making Technology Work
  • The Productive Edge
  • Made By Hong Kong
  • Made in America
  • Radioactive Waste Management and Regulation

Radioactive Waste Management and Regulation book cover

Radioactive Waste Management and Regulation

Mason Willrich and Richard K. Lester, Radioactive Waste Management and Regulation, The Free Press, 1977.

This book is the result of a research project conducted under the auspices of the Energy Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Energy Lab) for the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA).

The purpose of this study is to assist in developing public policy and institutions which are necessary for the safe management of radioactive waste, currently and in the long term. Indeed, an underlying hope is that the book will accelerate such development by the U.S. government.

Although the report focuses on the U.S., important international dimensions are taken into account. Ineffective management of radioactive waste in one country may cause harmful effects in another. Moreover, low- level radioactive waste is being dumped into the ocean, and geologic disposal of HL waste beneath the ocean floor is being considered. Most of the oceans and the deep seabed are beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Finally, the reader of this report should bear in mind that it focuses on a narrow, though important, problem which arises in a much larger context. The specific risks posed by radioactive waste must also be compared with the risks associated with other potential environmental pollutants. While radio- active waste constitutes a potential radiological hazard for a very long period of time, other possible pollutants may be even more persistent or more dangerous, or both. The risks posed by radioactive waste must also be balanced against the benefits to be derived from activities which produce the waste and the consequences if those activities were stopped. The security of the United States and its allies appears to rest in part on the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and the well-being of every society depends on adequate energy. The world urgently needs practical alternatives to fossil energy, and nuclear fission has been demonstrated to be a practical way to generate electricity.

What steps should we take to strengthen the capacity of our governmental institutions to deal effectively with the radioactive waste problem? The report recommends consideration of the several institutional reforms in order to deal more effectively with post-fission wastes.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology