"Perception" is indeed a very big issue here. The general public is grossly misinformed by the anti-nuclear zealots, who spread fear and build on ignorance to further their own agenda. I am a big proponent of nuclear power. I think it has the potential to solve very many of the world's problems. I know that it is a powerful and dangerous thing. Education is a key feature in the success or failure of nuclear power being used to it's full potential.
Ralph Nader is a big opponent of nuclear power. He is a very intelligent man, yet insists on spreading FUD to increase his number of supporters. He seems to feel that he knows better than the General Public, and that the 'people' can simply be told his final analysis. This is why I can't in good conscience vote for him. He's one man who purports to think for many people. But I digress.
Nuclear waste can be treated and processed to separate the radioactive material from the inert. The inert matterial can be used in the making of concrete, asphalt, whatever.. The radioactive matter can be further processed and re-enriched to make more nuclear fuel. Eventually, this too is rendered inert if freshly produced fuel isn't added. Waste can be processed into an inert state.
This is a costly process, and it requires technology which can also be used for the production of weapons-grade fissible material. Since the nuclear power generation industry in the US is privatized, this technology is not available to the people who make the nuclear waste. Due to international pressure and a variety of non-proliferation treaties, the US gov (and those of other nations) does not engage in the recycling process.
So that leaves us with disposal only, unless the world-view of nuclear power suddenly changes in the near future. Disposal in a wasteland is not feasible since the harm potential of waste is much greater than of radioactive tumbleweeds. Waste really needs to be well undergroud in a hollow mountain or such. Currently, that is exactly what is done. Old salt mines (by definition, very, very dry places) are used. Casks upon casks of waste are rolled in and stockpiled. These casks are multi-layer and very structurally sound - they could even be submerged in water and not contaminate it - still, care is taken to keep them dry and secure. After the site is 'full' (which is a very relative term, since the storage is not 'standing room only') the mine is pumped up with interesting mixtures of inert gasses to force out oxygen and other reactive agents and then sealed with yards of reinforced concrete.
It's all quite safe and secure. The problem is in the finding, preparation, zoning and worst of all publicising, the site. Due to 'perception', there is incredible opposition from people that simply do not know anything. They imagine that the desert rats will mutate into glowing green 9' tall monsters and eat their children or something. Everyone KNOWS that mutant rats don't like the taste of children.
A relatively new and still theoretical idea is to drill deep into the mantle, hollow out a chamber, stock-pile the waste sans the expensive containment, and then drop in a small nuclear bomb. The result would be a big blob of radioactive glass, deep in the earth, below the water table and not subject to leakage since it would be a single solid mass. This could even, in theory of course at this point, be done from a drilling rig out in the middle of the ocean, which has environmentalists in all sorts of unnecessary knots.
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