Thursday, July 01, 2010

Out Nevada Way: Yucca Mountain and Sharron Angle

yucca-mt-lg So how has the news about Yucca Mountain springing back to life gone over? Pretty well.

Here’s Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.):

Today’s decision affirms what I have been saying all along - Yucca Mountain remains the legally designated national repository for spent nuclear fuel and high level defense waste, and the Department of Energy has no authority to withdraw the license application.  Only Congress can change the law.

And Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Over the last 30 years, Congress, independent studies and previous administrations have all pointed to, voted for and funded Yucca Mountain as the nation's best option for a nuclear repository and in concert with those decisions, billions of dollars and countless work hours have been spent at Hanford and nuclear waste sites across the country in an effort to treat and package nuclear waste that will be sent here.

In case you’re wondering about the attention from Washington state politicians, Murray provides the hint – Hanford, a product of the Manhattan Project, and its used fuel, destined for Yucca Mountain. (Hanford’s history is a big subject. Start here for more.)

DOE is not happy:

The Department of Energy said it plans to appeal the ruling to the full five-member regulatory commission board, whose members are presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate.

"We believe the administrative board's decision is wrong and believe that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will reverse that decision," DOE spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said.

And here’s the response you’ve been waiting for, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.):

Reid said he was disappointed but that Tuesday's ruling was hardly the last word.

"The full commission will likely take another look at the motion to withdraw the license application and make the final decision on behalf of the NRC in the coming months," Reid said.

Well, we’ll see. The decision simply says that only Congress can change the terms of the Nuclear Waste Act – which designated Yucca Mountains as the used fuel repository – and that has always seemed the determinative factor. Clearly, it still does, so it will be interesting to see what the commission can do about it, if anything.

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Speaking of Nevada and Yucca Mountain, we watched Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face show the other night (it’s in the fourth segment on the page linked above) to see if she would have something to say about nuclear energy. Indeed she did.

She’s a genuinely surprising candidate, as her all-in nuclear energy advocacy had always seemed a toxic subject in Nevada. While Sen. Harry Reid is not anti-nuclear energy per se, he focuses his attention elsewhere, which has seemed the standard path for politicians out that way.

Here’s what she said:

“Let’s talk about the potential that Harry Reid has actually destroyed by demonizing the nuclear energy industry. There is a pot of money out there and the courts agree with me, that we have some potential for some job creation here and for some diversification of the economy if we make some lemonade out of lemons and we have a perfect opportunity right now in this economic climate to create some jobs.

“I believe yes, they should stop fighting [the Yucca Mountain license application]. We have some potential here. We have some science now that has far outpaced the idea of a dump site here to a retrieval site and a reprocessing [site]… .”

She got cut off here. We’ve cleaned this up a bit to ride over stumbles (and Ralston’s interjections).

We don’t agree with her comment about Reid, but however one cuts it, this is a strong endorsement in a state where one might not expect it. (To be honest, we’ve seen polls that show Nevada not all that nuclear unfriendly, even against Yucca Mountain.) Regardless, and as we said before, Surprising.

A beauty shot of the not notably beautiful Yucca Mountain.

7 comments:

DocForesight said...

"Harry Reid is not anti-nuclear energy per se, he focuses his attention elsewhere,...". Hmm, it seems that you may be allowing Sen. Reid a 'pass' rather than pressing him to take an informed stand on this issue.

Either he recognizes the distinct advantages of nuclear for energy production or he tows the enviro's line. Which is it?

And why do you find it surprising to hear this from Angle unless you had some preconceived idea of her understanding of the issue?

Anonymous said...

Yucca Mountain is back on the table. The neat part is that people are talking about how to change the fuel cycle to. That's the right way to go.

Phil said...

Isn't WIPP the repository for "high level defense waste"?

Anonymous said...

DocForesight: If you're not with us, you're against us? Surely you realize politics is more nuanced than that, as partisan politicians must balance the whims of their constituents, the party line, and their own ideology in order to stay in office. Quite a few Democrats have dropped the anti-nuclear rhetoric without actively endorsing the technology. This is a calculated position to limit the alienation of the enviro-base while opening the door to nuclear, especially as a part of political compromise.

Phil: WIPP cannot store "high level waste" due to the heat load, but stores defense-related transuranic (TRU) waste. Some defense waste was planned for Yucca Mountain.

DocForesight said...

@Anon - I do understand that politics is "nuanced", which is why policy advances are referred to as "the art of compromise". And I am pleased to see more Democrats drop their anti-nuke stance but they ought to demonstrate the courage of their convictions by saying so, not by hiding behind the nebulous "constituents say ...".

You and I know that nuclear power answers every question that the public asks. Only those who retain a willing ignorance of its capacity or its application remain in the anti-nuke camp.

Brian Mays said...

To be fair to Senator Reid, Doc, I must point out that, when it comes to most nuclear issues, Reid has typically taken a position that would normally be described as pro-nuclear. Yucca Mountain is the main exception.

Reid's take on nuclear is a fine example of what Tip O'Neill meant when he said, "All politics is local." Reid has capitalized on the unpopularity of this one issue in his state to maintain his seat in the Senate. His assumption of the role of "proud" champion against Yucca Mountain, while supporting most other things nuclear, speaks of a cynicism on par with the ironical situation of a Mormon representing a state that has legalized both gambling and prostitution.

DocForesight said...

@Brian -- Point taken. I would add another axiom, "All economics is personal". If the general economy is strong but you are broke, what does it matter - you're broke. If the general economy is weak but you are holding your own - you don't feel the strain, directly.

For Sen. Reid, he is missing an opportunity to be both a leader of the nation in general and encourage economic growth for his state in particular. That would actually take some courage and an informed position, however.

Read: "How to Build 2,000 Nuclear Plants by 2050" by James Muckerheide at www.21stcenturysciencetech.com