I've mentioned in a previous post my interest and background working in used fuel management. So it was with rising concern that I read yesterday an article in the Las Vegas Sun about a bill that was expected to be introduced in Congress regarding the future of Yucca Mountain. Benjamin Grove reported
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. John Ensign are expected today to unveil long-anticipated legislation that formally proposes their alternative to Yucca Mountain -- leaving waste at the nuclear power plants that produced it.Now that the bill has been introduced, more information was released today in this article for the Las Vegas Review Journal. The "take-title" scenario would mean that the Department of Energy would take ownership of used nuclear fuel but would leave at the power plant sites rather than continue with the plan of moving it to a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
I'm disappointed by this proposal.
First, as an engineer, I'm dismayed because it doesn't make sense. The consensus in the international scientific community is that the best option for high level waste is placement in a deep geologic repository. Yucca Mountain has undergone 20 years of exhaustive study to prove its suitability. And while I'm optimistic that the US will develop advanced recycling technologies that will optimize the fuel cycle and reduce the volume of high level waste, recyclying will not obviate the need for a repository. Therefore, there is no logical reason to delay opening Yucca Mountain and abdicate our responsibility to our children and grandchildren.
Second, I'm frustrated as a ratepayer and taxpayer. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act stipulated that nuclear operators pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund at a rate of $0.001 per kW-hr produced. In return, the federal government would use that money to begin removing fuel from the sites by 1998. Since the government has defaulted on that requirement, utilities are forced to pay for continued storage on site. Of course, that cost shows up in my electric bill as well.
In reality, we ratepayers are already paying twice. And now, according to this article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, money for this proposal would come from the Nuclear Waste Fund. So, not only would this proposal not meet the requirements of the law, it would mean that we will continue to pay twice for the foreseeable future.
The problem with solving the used fuel issue isn't technical and it isn't economics. It's purely political.
Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Energy, Yucca Mountain