if we can’t store spent nuclear fuel one-mile underground in the Nevada desert, where can we store it?
A new report that urges policymakers to separate nuclear waste policies from the whims of politics has already become entangled in partisan messaging over the fate of the abandoned Yucca Mountain waste dump in Nevada.
House Republicans say recommendations that the presidentially appointed Blue Ribbon Commission released yesterday underscore the need to move forward with developing the controversial repository under Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday that Yucca Mountain is a “relic of the past” and that the commission’s recommendations highlight the need for new policies to overcome the impasse on nuclear waste.
Room for interpretation in the report is vast, mainly because the Obama administration directed the 15-member commission to focus on a broad strategy for storing and disposing of nuclear waste, and not just on the merits of Yucca Mountain. The president assembled the commission last year after pulling out of Yucca Mountain, citing lack of public support.
The commission said in its report that U.S. waste policy needs to be revamped, regardless of Yucca Mountain, and called on the administration and Congress to quickly develop storage sites and dumps for about 65,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel at more than 70 reactors (Greenwire, Jan. 26).
A corporation independent of the Energy Department should be created to oversee the siting of one or more permanent geologic disposal facilities and one or more consolidated storage facilities, and the siting process for those projects should be done through an adaptive, staged and consent-based approach, the commission said. The administration should also amend federal law to ensure the $27 billion Nuclear Waste Fund is accessible for the waste program, as it is currently forced to compete for federal funding and subject to budget constraints.
Republicans applauded the commission’s acknowledgement that the country needs a permanent waste repository and pointed to Yucca Mountain.
“The commission underscored the need for prompt action on a long-term storage disposal facility, and we believe Yucca Mountain remains the most shovel-ready, thoroughly studied option,” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said in a statement.
Speaking about the need to revamp the Nuclear Waste Fee, Upton and Shimkus said that “recent House efforts to fund Yucca Mountain have been repeatedly thwarted by Harry Reid’s Democratic Senate and the White House”…