Bush reappoints U professor to nuclear waste board

By Lana Groves, Asst. News Editor

President George W. Bush reappointed U professor Thure Cerling to a discussion panel that reviews the efforts to create a nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Cerling, a distinguished geology and geophysics professor, has helped monitor the nuclear waste situation in the United States and monitor the planned disposal of fuel rods.

“That’s its sole task,” Cerling said. “The original board was created in 1987. The board will continue until a year after (the Department of Energy) begins to dispose of the nuclear waste that will go into the repository.”

The National Academy of Science recommended Cerling for a position on the 11-member board, which he joined in 2001. Cerling has been a board member for a total of eight years but is just now receiving the position.

“I just replaced myself,” he said.

Cerling’s post-doctoral work at the Oak Ridge National laboratory gave him initial experience with nuclear waste. Cerling said the board is comprised of people who understand nuclear waste issues but have no political aspirations that conflict with their work.

The Department of Energy is submitting a license application to get approval to start building the repository at Yucca Mountain near Las Vegas.

“We thought that by now we’d have a nuclear storage site,” Cerling said.

The plans were delayed because of legal complications and other federal plans.

Cerling said based on their current plans, the repository will be complete sometime in 2018.

Besides his work on the board, which requires him to attend meetings about eight times a year, Cerling teaches classes at the U.

He said he has to juggle his responsibilities to students but is happy to do it.

“Something’s going to have to be done,” he said. “We have nuclear waste. It’s not a problem that can be ignored.”

Marjorie Chan, chair of the geology and geophysics department, said the department is proud to have Cerling on the board.

“It’s one of those positions where a lot of people don’t realize how important it is,” she said. “It’s due to his stature as a scientist that he was chosen for the position.”

Cerling believes that even after the repository is built, other committees or advisory panels might need to continue monitoring the nuclear waste situation.

Nuclear products comprise about 20 percent of all electrical energy.

“It is clear nuclear energy is an important part of the energy we use,” he said.

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Thure Cerling