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The Washington Post on Yucca Mountain

washington_post_logo The editorial board takes a look at the Obama administration’s decision to reduce funding for Yucca Mountain:

If the president's vision for a clean energy future is to be believed or is to come to fruition, nuclear energy must be a part of the mix, and the safe disposal of its radioactive waste must be given more serious consideration.

They see the politics:

The president keeps a campaign promise to shut the site down. By doing so, he pleases Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). And he potentially secures the swing state's place in the blue column; the Silver State hadn't voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1996 until it went to Mr. Obama in 2008.

And they acknowledge how President Obama might proceed:

He also called for redirecting resources to improve the safety and security at plants around the country until a long-term solution is found. Those alternatives, however unlikely the first one is, are more than he offered when he cut off Yucca Mountain's funding.

Which is true, although likely how he’ll proceed. Obama has shown himself to be a remarkably consistent thinker.

The Post does not acknowledge that the Yucca Mountain license is still in progress – there’s enough funding to allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to proceed with its review – and thus the repository is not precisely dead. But their response is judicious – and, we should note, influential. It will be interesting to see how much Yucca Mountain percolates through the next few news cycles. If the decision comes to seem a triumph of politics over science – a big no-no for the administration – then some further explanation may be forthcoming.


Rod Adams said…
Given the challenges that the NRC faces with regard to adequate resources to review licenses for new plants, especially under the continuing resolution funding that has existed for all of FY2009, I strongly oppose wasting precious regulator hours on a project that is not going to be constructed.

My interpretation of the current politics of the situation is that there are organizations strongly opposed to new plant development who recognize that the NRC is a bottleneck that can be used to slow that development. Slowing down that development adds cost and uncertainty and enables continued sales of coal and natural gas while the licensing processes are delayed.

I think that a proper position for the NEI is to advocate for the license application to be suspended and shelved. If at some time in the future, the politics change and Yucca for some odd reason gets reintroduced as an option, then the process can be restored. For now, though, there are much higher priority items that need to be handled by our limited pool of regulatory resources.
Anonymous said…
Congress should restore the funding. The NWPA is still in effect. The feds are obliged to follow the law.

If they don't, at minimum they should refund all of the contributions put into the waste fund since the requirements to pay into it were set. What's another 10 or 20 billion to an Administration already squandering trillions?

On this point:

"Obama has shown himself to be a remarkably consistent thinker."

The only times he is "remarkably consistent" is when he has a teleprompter in front of him so he can read the words someone else is feeding him. Thinker? I doubt it, unless it's thinking about another campaign.
Anonymous said…
"If they don't, at minimum they should refund all of the contributions put into the waste fund since the requirements to pay into it were set."

I assume you mean they should refund it to the ratepayers, to whom the NWPA waste fee was passed on in electric bills. Otherwise it would be an unearned windfall for utilities on the backs of taxpayers.

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