By Richard Henry Lee
Under the guise of cutting wasteful spending, President Obama is terminating support for the Yucca Mountain spent nuclear fuel repository in Nevada. While not unexpected, this development means that there will be no place to store nuclear waste, probably for decades, other than at temporary storage locations at each of the nation's nuclear power plants.
This termination decision was one among several contained in a document titled "Terminations, Reductions, and Savings" which were announced today by the White House to cut $17 Billion from the FY2010 budget.
It seems disingenuous to suggest that canceling the Yucca Mountain project is going to help taxpayers, since the project is funded not by the taxpayer, but by the Nuclear Waste Fund. The Fund has about $30 Billion which is derived from an assessment on nuclear utilities based upon the amount of electricity generated. The cost is passed on to consumers.
President Ford and especially President Carter, effectively killed off the reprocessing option for spent nuclear fuel due to nuclear proliferation concerns, and Obama has now killed off the storage option for the foreseeable future.
This action will likely forestall the construction of new nuclear power plants which incorporate advanced safety and reliability features. These promising designs would add additional electric generating capacity without the huge carbon footprint of coal fired plants, which the Obama administration also opposes.
World-wide, other nations are turning to nuclear power to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol for greenhouse gas emissions since sustainable technologies cannot bridge the gap between supply and demand.
The accompanying justification statement for the termination reads:
The President has acknowledged that nuclear power is -- and likely will remain -- an important source of electricity for many years to come and that how the Nation deals with the dangerous byproduct of nuclear reactors is a critical question that has yet to be resolved.
The President, however, has made clear that the Nation needs a better solution than the proposed Yucca Mountain repository. Such a solution must be based on sound science and capable of securing broad support, including support from those who live in areas that might be affected by the solution. Accordingly, Secretary of Energy Chu has announced that he will stand up an expert, Blue Ribbon Commission to evaluate options and make recommendations to the Administration for developing a new plan for the back end of the fuel cycle.
This reliance on getting the NIMBY crowd to support whatever solution Chu's panel decides means there will be no solution.
The Yucca Mountain project faced years of delay due to efforts of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and others to block it. When the Democrats took control of the Senate in 2008 and Reid became Majority Leader, the funding from Congress was curtailed and the program was in serious trouble.
Other countries including France, Japan and the United Kingdom, reprocess the spent fuel since it contains useful quantities of fissionable plutonium and uranium which can be made into additional nuclear fuel while removing quantities of plutonium which would otherwise be place in a burial site.
The Yucca Mountain decision is another example by this Administration where energy policy is driven by the liberal left rather than a realistic assessment of our energy options.
And, in denying this nation the benefits of clean, reliable nuclear power, Obama has eliminated the one energy option which has successfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions on a large scale basis. Instead, we embark upon a hopeful, sustainable energy future using green technologies which are uneconomical and in many cases, unproven.