Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain, the Nevada-based, scientifically flawed and politically unjust proposed high-level radioactive waste repository has now been canceled. However, pro-nuclear forces in Congress have not abandoned Yucca and funding is still allocated to the project.



Politics has trumped science at Yucca since day one

Robert Alvarez (photo at left), senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, and formerly a senior advisor to the Energy Secretary from 1993 to 1999, has penned a response to yet another in a long line of pro-Yucca dump editorials by the Washington Post editorial board. Ironically enough, a Nuclear Energy Institute ad, taking readers to the NEI website, appeared next to the Post editorial. Alvarez called for prioritizing hardened on-site storage of high-level radioactive wastes, rather than wasting more time and money on the 55 year old will-o-the-wisp dumpsite search. Instead, President Obama's and Energy Secretary Chu's "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future" is advocating regional "centralized interim storage," parking lot dumps that will play a risky radioactive waste shell game on our roads, rails, and waterways, and will likely violate environmental justice by targeting such sites as the Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah. These centralized parking lot dumps, as at DOE weapons sites such as Savannah River, South Carolina, could also serve as a stepping stone to reprocessing, risking weapons proliferation, environmental contamination and health impacts, as well as a mega-boondoggle for taxpayers. Despite reprocessing's risks, Energy Secretary Chu continues to repeatedly voice support for it. 


House Republicans undertake Yucca Mountain witch hunt

As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, a witch hunt led by U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (Republican-Michigan), who has three atomic reactors in his district, and Energy and Economy Subcommittee chairman John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois), who has a total of 14 atomic reactors in his state (11 still operating, 3 permanently shut down), included a recent grilling of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Greg Jazcko.  The Republican witch hunt is a bid to resurrect the proposed Yucca Mountain dumpsite for high-level radioactive waste in Nevada. President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu zeroed out funding for the proposal in early 2010, and have also moved to withdraw the Dept. of Energys' construction and operations application from the NRC license proceeding. Congressman Upton has long championed the Yucca dump, including sponsoring several incarnations of the Mobile Chernobyl bill as far back as 1995. Beyond Nuclear has prepared a summary and full length exposé on Upton's pro-nuclear policies, as well as documentation on the sources of nuclear industry campaign cash he has received from political action committees and individuals associated with the nuclear power industry. Opening the Yucca dump has been among the nuclear power industry's highest priorities for a generation.


Congressional tour of closed Yucca site costs taxpayers $15,000

As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, three congressional proponents of the cancelled Yucca Mountain dumpsite for high-level radioactive waste decided to take a 30 yard stroll down a tunnel, at a cost of $15,000 to U.S. taxpayers. The visit, intended to help resurrect the project, lasted less than an hour. If revived and taken full scale, the pricetag for the Yucca Mountain dump's construction and operation would top $100 billion, according to the Dept. of Energy. Since the 1980s, over $8 billion of ratepayer money, and more than $3 billion of taxpayer money, has been wasted at the controversial hole in the Nevada desert. Republican U.S. Representative John Shimkus, chair of the subcommittee on energy and the economy, led the tour. He hales from Illinois, the state with more high-level radioactive waste than any other. (Another ironic Yucca-Chernobyl connection -- President Clinton in 2000 vetoed a congressional attempt to open the dump, dubbed the Mobile Chernobyl bill, on the 14th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, almost to the exact minute of the explosion.) An archive of Yucca news coverage dating back to 2002 can be viewed at the website of the Las Vegas Review Journal.


Yucca Mountain: End of the Road?

A graphic summarizing major milestones for and against the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump in Nevada. It was published in the Las Vegas Review Journal on Feb. 8, 2010 -- a week after Obama administration Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced he would move to withdraw the application to construct and operate the Yucca dump from the NRC licensing proceeding, and would zero out the Yucca dump's budget in Fiscal Year 2011.  An even more comprehensive and detailed timeline of the Yucca Mountain issue was later (June 20, 2010) posted at the Las Vegas Review Journal's website (see the left hand side bar).


Yucca dump licensing proceeding limps one step forward

Or should we say backward? The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has published the first of five volumes of its "Safety Evaluation Report" (SER) on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) application for a construction and operating license for the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Western Shoshone Indian lands at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Although NRC staff has given DOE's work a "passing grade," it should be borne in mind that NRC staff was busted by its own Inspector General in Sept. 2007 for plagiarizing nuclear utility "safety analyses," cutting and pasting them into NRC staff "safety evaluations" as part of rubberstamping 20 year license extensions at old reactors. This latest NRC Yucca licensing action comes despite DOE Secretary Steven Chu moving last March to withdraw its license application "with prejudice" (that is, forevermore, with no option to re-submit it), following President Barack Obama's clearcut and wise policy decision, that Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for radioactive waste disposal. But, incredibly, an NRC "Atomic Safety (sic) Licensing Board" (ASLB) then rejected DOE's motion to withdraw in late June, sending the matter to the five member Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself for review, where it now sits, awaiting a ruling. Regardless of the fact that DOE's budget for the Yucca Mountain dump project is a big fat ZERO for Fiscal Year 2011, thanks to the efforts of President Obama, Energy Secretary Chu, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it is almost certain that whichever side loses at the NRC, it will appeal to the federal courts. The nuclear power industry's strategy is to draw out the Yucca dump's "last throes" long enough, in hopes that Sen. Reid loses his re-election in November, 2010, and President Obama his re-election in November, 2012. Then the nuclear power industry, its many friends in Congress, and presumably its new ally in the White House could move to "revive" the zombie that is the Yucca dump.  A timeline of the Yucca Mountain issue is posted at the Las Vegas Review Journal's website (see the left hand side bar).