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Hanford and The Narrative of Nothing

Dino Rossi So the AP wanted a story and by hell or high water, it got one:

The Obama administration's decision to bypass Nevada's Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository should give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a boost in his bid for a fifth term. The action is not doing another endangered Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, any favors.

That’s because the nuclear waste at Washington’s Hanford site was slated to go to Yucca Mountain and since Murray was fourth in line in the Senate leadership, she should have been able to – do something – about it.

In Washington state, Republican rival Dino Rossi is questioning whether Murray has done enough to challenge Reid and President Barack Obama over Yucca Mountain.

"She's No. 4 in leadership. It's not like she has no power," Rossi said. "She should be able to convince these folks that this is important."

This seems a story about nothing at all. I get that Hanford is a perennial issue in Washington, but Rossi, if he wins the election, will have even less heft than Murray to do anything about Yucca Mountain.

[Rossi’s] biggest complaint is that Murray didn't oppose confirmation of three members to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. During their confirmation, they were asked if they would second-guess the Energy Department's decision to withdraw its license application for Yucca Mountain. Each replied no.

Which evaporates because two of the three commissioners won’t recuse themselves from ruling on the continuation of the Yucca Mountain license review – Energy Secretary Steven Chu is trying to withdraw the license – and the third recused himself for a different reason.

The AP seems to want to cook up a narrative, but there’s just nothing here.


But the AP story did arouse curiosity about the candidate’s stands on nuclear energy – admittedly, it could have been far worse and done that.

On his campaign site, Rossi lists a few energy factlets:

We need to lessen America’s energy dependence by developing more of our own resources.  That means developing more renewable energy sources, increasing our reliance on alternative fuels, and expanding domestic energy production in an environmentally and fiscally responsible way.

  • Oppose job killing energy taxes like cap and trade.
  • Enhance safety procedures for any energy exploration, whether on land or off shore.
  • Ensure polluters pay for any environmental degradation.

Rossi poses with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) on his home page, and he seems to want to present a similar Republican-in-blue-state moderation mien, so, aside from the cap-and-trade swipe, this could work for any Democratic candidate. However, while running for Governor two years ago – he lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire - he was asked directly about nuclear energy:

Do you support increased use of nuclear power in Washington? If not, why? If so, please explain your position on what should be done with the waste.

I will pursue the increased use of nuclear energy as a clean energy source. The US currently relies on nuclear for approximately 20% of its energy, but little has been done in the recent past to increase the capacity for this zero-emission energy source. Thanks to glassification and other innovative technologies, the storage of nuclear waste is increasingly safe and inexpensive. We should be looking toward nuclear energy as a cost effective, clean and viable energy alternative for a more energy independent future.

No viable strategy to reduce CO2 is possible without nuclear energy. That's why Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore advocates it as a central element of reducing greenhouse gases.

No argument here.


Murray has not said a lot about nuclear energy. We did find this amusing bit:

Energy Northwest operates a workhorse of a nuclear power plant next to the Hanford reservation.

That plant may supply the light for the big dinner Obama and Murray will attend Tuesday. In fact, Energy Northwest's nuclear power plant supplies enough energy to power the entire city of Seattle.

True. And this comes from the Tri-City Herald, which includes the Columbia Power Station.

Here is Murray’s energy page. This stood out among her accomplishments:

Senator Murray has fought so that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) can provide stable pricing.  She has also fought efforts to increase regional electricity costs.  In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Murray secured $3.25 billion in additional borrowing authority to enable BPA to improve transmission lines, get renewable energy sources up and running and create new green jobs.

The stimulus bill, green jobs, energy efficiency – it’s like a progressive trifecta, for good or ill, and exactly how Murray likes it.

Recent polls show Murray running a few points ahead of Rossi. There’s going to be a lot of squeakers come November.


And now for something completely different. The six Republican candidates for New Hampshire Senator all agree on everything:

All said they would have voted against extending long-term unemployment benefits. All argued Elena Kagan should not have been appointed to the Supreme Court. All said man-made global warming hasn't been proven.

And that’s a quorum. The candidates are Kelly Ayotte, Gerard Beloin, Jim Bender, Bill Binnie, Ovide Lamontagne and Dennis Lamare. The primary is September 14. Ayotte is favored in the primary and also favored against Democrat Paul Hodes. Still a ways to go, though.

Republican candidate Dino Rossi.


The technology is there said…
Unlike commercial spent fuel, the defense high level wastes at Hanford, Savannah River, and Idaho have no potential future value. This is the kind of stuff that we need to put into real disposal.

Look at very deep boreholes. The technology for drilling extremely deep holes, over 5 kilometers, has advanced enormously since 1987 when Yucca Mountain was picked. Over 70% of the U.S. has deep, crystalline basement rock within 2 km of the surface, providing ideal conditions for borehole disposal.

Deep boreholes provide perfect isolation for millions of years, it's easy to prove, and it's the right thing to do. Defense high level waste from Hanford is the perfect stuff to use to demonstrate the technology for deep borehole disposal.

And I like Senator Murray. She's a bright lady.

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