Walk into any biological research lab and you'll probably see the telltale, three-triangled symbol somewhere--on a storage cabinet, a trash can, a refrigerator--indicating that radioactive materials are present. Radioactive isotopes of common elements, most often used to quantify or track minute amounts of substances, are invaluable for research, and they will no doubt continue to be so in the foreseeable future.

The benefits of this research notwithstanding, the next few years promise to bring unprecedented problems in the disposal of the resulting radioactive waste. Because of federal legislation passed in the 1980s, the three disposal sites in the United States currently licensed to accept this waste will soon close their doors to the waste generated in many states. Although research activities--public and private--produce a very small fraction of the total radioactive waste in the U.S., many labs will be left without an outlet.

Probably the most...

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