John Oliver Targets America's Nuclear Waste Problem on Last Week Tonight

Aug 21, 2017

Nuclear waste, as John Oliver notes, is “the worst type of garbage that raccoons can get into.” And on Last Week Tonight, he pointed out just how much the U.S. has—enough to fill “one football field, 20 feet high.” That’s just the byproduct from nuclear power plants, he says. There’s an additional 100 million gallons that has been generated from the production of nuclear weapons, according to Oliver—so much of it, that one out of three Americans live within 50 miles of nuclear waste.

Oliver says that despite years of using nuclear energy, the country still doesn’t have a permanent facility for its storage. If the U.S. wants to avoid a Fukushima-like accident, Oliver notes that the U.S. needs one badly. The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada was supposed to be that site, but the project has stalled. Current sites, Oliver argues, are unsafe, particularly one nuclear storage facility in California that sits on a fault line next to the ocean, which Oliver says sounds like something from the opening scene of “a movie starring the Rock that you watch on a plane.”

Perhaps most alarming is that, way back in the 1970s, a news team produced a report nearly identical to the one shown on Last Week Tonight, and America’s nuclear waste problem was supposed to be taken care of back then. “It was a problem we should have solved in the 1980s,” says Oliver, “much like a Rubik’s Cube.”

Watch the clip above.

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