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Friday
Dec212012

30 years ago today, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed

As the U.S. Congress currently debates (or rather, does't debate) the infamous "Fiscal Cliff," it took the country off a bottomless cliff 30 years ago today, by passing the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The NWPA shifted liability for highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel, from the utilities which generated it (and profited mightily thereby), to the American people: first, ratepayers have paid tens of billions of dollars in nuclear generated electricity surcharges, into the Nuclear Waste Fund; then, when that still falls short of the price tag, taxpayers will be left holding the bag for the rest. 

As written by John D'Agata in his 2010 book About a Mountain:

"...On November 22, 1982, Senator James McClure [Republican from Idaho], the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced a bill that was written by the American Nuclear Energy Council [now called the Nuclear Energy Institute] calling for the disposal of nuclear waste...He pushed his bill through committee in an hour and a half, then sent it to the floor for an expedited vote.

It arrived there on the evening of December 21, just hours before the Senate recessed for Christmas break.

Within thirteen minutes, and without a single minute of debate, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was voted into law.

'I would like the meet the Senator,' said one observer that night, 'who call tell us what he thinks is even in this bill.'"(page 35)

President Ronald Reagan then signed the NWPA into law early the next year. That "expedicted vote," Reagan's stroke of the pen in the Oval Office, and the U.S. Department of Energy's rushed signing of contracts to "take out the garbage" represented an unprecedented subsidy for the nuclear power industry. The American taxpayer currently forks over $500 million per year in damages to nuclear utilities for failing to begin disposing of irradiated nuclear fuel in a deep geologic repository in 1998. More.