Thursday, July 08, 2010

Another Letter on Yucca Mountain

sensenbrenner2 Yesterday, we told you about a letter sent by 91 legislators to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. In this story about the letter, writer Steve Tetreault uncovers another letter writing effort:

Meanwhile, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., was seeking lawmakers to sign a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko questioning whether three of the commissioners might have "pre-judged" the Yucca issue.

In a draft copy obtained Tuesday, Sensenbrenner contends that three nominees who were confirmed faced "intense pressure" from Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., at their confirmation hearing in February.

We were there at that hearing and it’s the closest we’ve seen Sen. Reid come to inserting himself into Yucca Mountain issues – and he wasn’t even there, as Boxer relayed the question from him to the NRC candidates.

However, we’d quibble with the “intense pressure” characterization. Reid’s question was whether the three candidates would second-guess DOE’s decision to shutter Yucca Mountain. All three said no. That was it – we don’t recall any follow-up on the issue from Boxer or anyone else at the hearing.

Not second-guessing the decision and voting to affirm Yucca Mountain as the used fuel repository (because closing it conflicts with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act – see the post below for more on this) are two different things and do not necessarily contradict each other. But we grant that Sensenbrenner is taking care here:

"We think it was an inappropriate commitment," Sensenbrenner's draft letter said. "The commission should examine each case on its merits, rather than pre-judging an argument. We hope the entire Commission considers the ... decision in an objective manner."

We hope so, too. We took a look at Sensenbrenner’s Web site to see if he had posted his letter. Not yet. Check here later in the day to see if he has it up. (He has on his home page a little doomsday clock counting the national debt – quite hypnotic.)

Sen. James Sensenbrenner wants you to know.


Pete said...

Whether or not the commissioners were pressured to pre-judge the Yucca Mountain issue may not be as important as the fact that they HAVE indeed pre-judged the issue. This was covered in another Steve Tetreault column last week in the Pahrump Valley Times:

Three NRC commissioners -- William Magwood, George Apostolakis and William Ostendorff -- were asked directly at their Senate confirmation hearings in February whether they would "second guess" DOE on Yucca Mountain. Each said no.

But (Lake) Barrett (former director of Yucca Mountain program) said it was "highly irregular" for nominees to be asked flat out during confirmation how they might rule on an issue, and the commissioners may be challenged on those grounds.

"The three new commissioners will have to decide whether they can actually vote on the matter since many people think they were compromised during the confirmation process," Barrett said.

SteveK9 said...

This has nothing to do with Nuclear energy, but since you chose to mention it, I wonder if Sensenbrenner had his cute clock ticking during the time that Bush turned Clinton surpluses into deficits, primarily through tax cuts for wealthy individuals? During a period of GDP growth when we should have continued with surpluses.

DocForesight said...

@SteveK9 -- Kindly define "wealthy".

I would prefer to keep my comments restricted to the subject of this blog, but if you insist on opening that door, someone may step in.

OTOH, there are plenty of political or current-event blogs and sites on which to opine about those matters. Just direct people to the site you prefer to engage you in that discussion. Fair?