On October 16th, in the form of a 781-page Safety Evaluation Report (SER) volume entitled "Repository Safety After Permanent Closure," a publication by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) purportedly has rekindled speculation about the potential for Yucca Mountain, Nevada to become the first U.S. high-level radioactive waste dump.
But wait! Didn't the Obama administration cancel the long-proposed Yucca dump as "not a workable option"? 'Tis true. Back in 2009 to 2010, not only did the Obama administration stop requesting funding for the project, but its U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the project proponent, even went so far as to request to withdraw its license application.
However, an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) overseeing the Yucca license proceeding, comprised of three administrative law judges/hearing examiners, blocked the withdrawal of DOE's application, keeping the problem-plagued, potentially $100 billion boondoggle on life support (about $11 billion has been wasted on the Yucca dump since the 1980s -- $8 billion of ratepayer money from the Nuclear Waste Fund, and another $3 billion from U.S. taxpayers via the Departments of Defense and Energy).
Then, in 2013, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 split decision, ordered NRC to spend whatever Yucca funding remained in its coffers (a mere $11 million) on completion of the five-volume SER. The chief judge dissented, declaring the SER's publication "a useless act," and waste of money.
The SER Vol. 3's publication just now is what has caused all the sudden buzz out of the blue.
If you listened to the likes of Republican U.S. Congressmen Upton (Michigan) and Shimkus (Illinois) -- the U.S. House of Representatives committee and subcommittee chairs, respectively, with jurisdiction over nuclear matters -- you'd think NRC's new report heralded the imminent opening of the Yucca dump. They welcomed the report as a "game-changer" -- but then again, they've been calling for Yucca's opening for decades, the scientific unsuitability be damned. Upton and Shimkus are among the top recipients of nuclear power industry campaign contributions, and return the favor with gusto, without fail.
Unsurprisingly, the Nuclear Energy Institute gloated about the release of SER Vol. 3, as well. In fact, opening the Yucca dump has been a top priority for the nuclear power industry's lobbyists for decades. Blocking the dump for the past 20+ years has been a remarkable Davis versus Goliath victory for grassroots environmentalists against a filthy rich dirty energy industry.
Even the headline in the New York Time's coverage would give the impression that Yucca will be open for business any day now.
But Steve Tetrault, who has long reported on the Yucca dump saga for the Las Vegas Review Journal, gave a more nuanced perspective -- including Nevada's tireless opposition to the dump. Tetrault reported:
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers from states where radioactive waste is stored at nuclear reactor sites propose new funding annually for Yucca Mountain. But [Nevada Democrat Harry] Reid, using his power as Senate majority leader, has blocked it each year.
“It is utterly useless to have wasted millions of dollars on this report,” Reid said Thursday.
Reid said taking the NRC staff conclusions at face value “is like reading one side of a lawsuit without hearing the opposing party’s evidence. The Energy Department will not pursue licensing Yucca and Nevada has persistently opposed the dump.”
(The State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's "What News?" website provides links to wide media reporting on this NRC Yucca SER Vol. 3 publication -- see beginning on Oct. 16th and continuing in the days thereafter.)
Reid was a rookie Senator in 1987 when targeted by the "Screw Nevada Bill," which singled out Yucca as the only site in the country to be further studied as a potential high-level radioactive waste dump. He has led successful congressional efforts ever since to block it.
Reid does not stand alone in the U.S. Senate. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, stood strongly against the Yucca dump during the big congressional votes of 2002, and still opposes it. So too does U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who led U.S. House opposition to the Yucca dump 12 years ago while serving as a U.S. Rep.
The State of Nevada also remains firm in its position of Hell No, We Won't Glow.
Beyond Nuclear, and, oh, a thousand or so other national, regional, and local grassroots environmental groups remain committed to blocking the Yucca dump, come hell or high water!