Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Dance of the Blue Ribbons

EpicColorChamp8x11Over the past few days, the Obama administration experienced significant pushback on its decision to scale back the Yucca Mountain project – more, we admit, than we really expected. (Just scroll down to earlier posts – we’ve watched this happen with considerable pleasure.)

Polls, and not just those from NEI, show growing support for nuclear energy – we think NEI can claim some credit for public opinion coming around - and good polls makes supporting nuclear energy easier for even Democratic Congressfolks to do. Consequently, the administration has had to try to provide a fuller explanation, especially to the Senate, of their plans for moving forward. These have been positive developments – so far, so good.

But Congress and the administration still shows reluctance, perhaps it is a hangover from the No Nukes 1980s. Exciting times, those. Thus, rather than act precipitously, we get The Dance of the Blue Ribbons:

Sen. Harry Reid said today he is working to form a study group to come up with alternatives to burying nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

"I am going to have a blue ribbon panel to take a look at that," the Nevada Democrat said in a meeting with reporters. He did not give details other than he expected the group would be given a year to report its findings.

Reid often gets cast as the villain in the Yucca Mountain issue – it’s in his state and an article of Nevada political faith is that Yucca Mountain must be opposed – but Reid is actually pro-nuclear. We don’t think he’s anything but sincere here.

And the administration? Stand back, here it comes:

[DOE Secretary Steven] Chu said he was convening a "blue-ribbon panel" of experts to "develop a long-term strategy that must include the waste disposal plan," after Obama's budget ruled out a proposed national repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

"I don't want to suggest what this blue-ribbon panel might determine but let me stress this will be done this year," he told a Senate budget committee hearing on the energy proposals in Obama's 3.55-trillion-dollar budget.

Well, all right, that’s nine months for DOE and a year for the Senate. While we couldn’t blame you for a little cynicism here – kick-the-can is, after all, a rather old-fashioned game – for a Democratic government, this is a tectonic shift in thinking. If they need some time to do that thinking, fine. We’re pretty sure how this will come out – especially with the climate change conference in Copenhagen happening in the midst of it - so fine.

It’s an alpaca. He lives at Colorado’s Bella Vita Ranch, where they seem to have a lot of blue ribbon winners. Take a gander, if you’d like an alpaca for the kids.


GRLCowan said...

Take a gander, if you’d like an alpaca for the kids.

Somehow that doesn't sound like a fair trade.

(How fire can be domesticated)

donb said...

In the original posting:
Sen. Harry Reid said today he is working to form a study group to come up with alternatives to burying nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

I would hope that we could do better than just throwing away slightly used nuclear fuel. How about a change where we use part of the $0.001 per kWHr paid by the nuclear power plant operators to incitivize fuel reprocessing and develop advanced reactors to use thorium and all that left-over U238. Burying only the fission products would greatly extend the life of Yucca Mountain and also greatly reduce the time the waste products need to be contained.

Marcel F. Williams said...

The Federal government should-- use the billions-- given to it by the utilities that produce spent fuel to:

1. Store spent fuel in central repositories within the States that are currently producing spent fuel

2. Reprocess the material at these repositories in order to extract the plutonium and uranium

3. Utilize the extracted plutonium and uranium in on site Federal nuclear reactors to produce base-load electricity and hydrocarbon synfuels and industrial chemicals.

The low enriched reprocessed uranium could be used in on site CANDU type reactors, or enriched to be used in light water reactors.

The plutonium could be used as MOX for Light Water Reactors or as part of the new Thorium fuel fuel type elements.

The residual radioactive elements could be easily stored and secured on site in cask until the final long term decommissioning of the Federal site a few hundred years from now (probably in the 24th century). Afterwards,, this residual waste could finally be moved off-site to permanent deep sea, remote island, or even extraterrestrial repositories.

The Nuplex Solution

Anonymous said...

I wonder if their goal is to use up the payments into the waste fund for the blue ribbons? Forming panels and study groups is an act of political cowardice, nothing more. It does two things. One, it stalls for time, basically runs out the clock. Playing stall-ball with national energy policy is pretty stupid. Second, it provides political cover for politicians who are too much of a moral coward and intellectual pygmy to make a decision and stand by it. I am not impressed, not one bit. But I suppose this is the energy policy version of HopeNChange.

Anonymous said...

Are the administration and congressional leaders aware of polls like the liked Zogby poll? If not, how do we make sure that they are. We should all just send them a letter with that link.

I find the poll results very surprising (and encouraging). Not only does new nuclear win on the yes or no question, but it actually is the #1 choice for new plant construction, new plant for your local area, and (most amazingly) first choice for govt. support/reasearch, even over renewables?!

It almost sounds too good to be true, but this isn't even an industry poll! We've known for some time that communities that already have nukes strongly support additional units, but this was a nationwide poll and people wanted a new nuke in their local (greenfield) area more than any other type of plant! Wow.

We need to make the Dems aware of this public sentiment, and tell them not to listen to the dogmatic left wing of their party. They need to understand that these long-established anti-nuclear views/organisations do not reflect the views of the people.

Jim Hopf

Paul Studier said...

Perhaps the administration can find the lost licensed interim storage site with a capacity of 40,000 tons. A combination of this site plus on site storage should hold us for decades. Unfortunately, the only thing that exits at this site is the license and the space. See

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it iws a good idea to have a blue ribbon panel take a llook a all the options at this point in time. Undoubtedly the state of the economy has made it a lower priority item at the present time. Also, some attention should be given to the composition of the Nucear Regulatory Commission and perhaps let the terms of political appointees expire. A majority are political appointees- former staff members of Reid, Domenici and Craig. It is important that this body which may do the licensing of Yucca Mountain have standing with the public. We need the eqivalent of an Elliot Richardson and Ruckelshaus from the scientific community.