We’re not going to say the cat’s out of the bag or anything like that, but we were surprised to read this in the Wall Street Journal, with the paper’s Robert Thompson listening to Energy Secretary Steven Chu:
Well, it's fair to say that the whole history of Yucca Mountain was more political than scientific. But also very truthfully I can say that given what we know today, the repository looks less and less good. So now we're in a situation where it can't go forward.
When Yucca Mountain was being established in the early '80s, the idea then was the nuclear industry was going to tail off. Now, because of climate change, we do want to restart the nuclear industry. Because of that, the statutory limit of Yucca Mountain would have been used up in the next couple of decades. So we need to take a fresh look at everything.
That’s the first time we’ve heard Chu note the political dimension of Yucca Mountain quite so bluntly. He’s right, of course: Nevada used everything it could think of to slow down the repository – we’ll let history sort out the validity of the state’s tactics – and its Congressional delegation was universally opposed to it. During a Democratic primary debate in Nevada, the candidates, including President Barack Obama, promised to close it.
And of course, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is Senate majority leader and an exceptionally powerful figure. During a hearing a few weeks ago, he relayed a question through Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) asking the three NRC Commissioner nominees whether they would second-guess DOE on withdrawing the application for Yucca Mountain. They all said No. (Our guess is that Reid wanted to make sure the nominees would not deny the request.)
Some of our commenters opined that Reid is in a particularly tough race this year to keep his seat and that Yucca Mountain might spring back to life if he loses in November. Anything’s possible, of course, but we’d keep the focus on the President’s promise to close it and Chu’s bases for doing so. Obama is exceptionally consistent on his campaign pledges.
The interview has a lot of interesting exchanges. Be sure to read the whole thing.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The picture doesn’t seem foreshortened, so that is one very big hand he has there.