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.



"Nuclear Waste Hard To Handle For GOP Candidates"

Forget about a hot potato -- how about a radioactive hot potato?!

As reported by Jason Plautz in National Journal, "Two early voting states are on opposite ends of the Yucca Mountain divide." South Carolina -- the third presidential primary after Iowa's caucus and New Hampshire's primary -- stores a large amount of irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at its many commercial atomic reactors, as well as at the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex. The powers that be in South Carolina have long been in favor of dumping its radioactive wastes on Nevada --at the long-targeted Yucca Mountain site -- even though the Silver State already suffered the ravages of four decades of full-scale nuclear weapons testing (both atmospheric, and underground, which also often leaked into the biosphere; sub-critical nuclear weapons tests still take place in Nevada), and has not one single atomic reactor within its borders.

But the Nevada caucus comes just days after the South Carolina primary in the presidential campaign. Republican presidential candidates are now trying to walk that tightrope, dangling above a mountain of radioactive waste 73 years high.

As Hannah Northey at E&E Daily has reported, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) is keeping tabs on which Republican presidential candidates support the Yucca dump, and which oppose it. Members of the latter category are much more likely to receive his support, Sen. Heller had indicated.


House Republicans still pushing for Yucca Mountain dump

As reported by Hannah Northey of E&E Daily, U.S. House Economy and the Environment Subcommittee Chair Shimkus (R-IL) is demanding a revival of (or, more appropriately, a relapse into) the Yucca Mountain dump as part of overall radioactive waste legislation.

The article quotes Rep. Shimkus, who is displeased that his Senate Republican counterparts have not yet included Yucca's revival in their own bill:

"It's about time the senators had to either address the issues of their states, whether that's defense waste or spent nuclear fuel, and be part of the debate," Shimkus said. "We're not moving interim storage without any assurance that Yucca is moving forward. That's pretty clear." (emphasis added)

However, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has made it clear that a pro-Yucca dump amendment would be introduced to the Senate bill, once it reaches the floor for debate. U.S. Sen. Reid (D-NV), the Senate Democratic Leader, can be expected to fight that amendment. Reid has successfully protected Nevada against the proposed Yucca dump for nearly 30 years, ever since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, when he was a rookie Senator.


"Yucca Mountain left out of Senate funding bill" -- but for how much longer?!

As reported by Devin Henry in The Hill, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has not included funding in the Energy and Water Development section of the Senate Appropriations bill to revive the cancelled Yucca Mountain, Nevada radioactive waste dump. However, Alexander -- a long time Yucca dump supporter -- has made clear that the Senate floor debate of the Appropriations bill would be a good place to add Yucca dump funding by amendment.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Democratic Leader of the U.S. Senate, can be expected to fight any such amendment with everything he's got. After all, he's been successfully leading the fight against the Yucca dump since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, when he was a rookie Senator.

President Obama has also opposed the Yucca dump as "unworkable" -- de-funding the project, and even moving to withdraw the U.S. Department of Energy's application to construct and operate the high-level radioactive waste dump in Nevada.

The U.S. House has included funding for Yucca's U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceeding. A conference committee between House and Senate appropriators would be another juncture for Yucca dump opponents to remain vigilant against funding being added to the bill.

Alexander's Senate Appropriations Bill language also includes funding for centralized, or consolidated, storage of commercial irradiated fuel -- something opponents have dubbed de facto permanent parking lot dumps. Nuclear boosters near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in NM, as well as at Waste Control Specialists in Texas, have expressed interest in becoming consolidated interim storage sites -- for a price. Alexander's provision, supported by ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein on the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, would launch unprecedented numbers of risky high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and barges onto the roads, rails, and waterways.


Rep. Shimkus (R-IL) pushes Yucca dump at House hearing

On May 15th, U.S. Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) chaired a hearing of the House Economy and the Environment Subcommittee entitled "Update on the Current Status of Nuclear Waste Management Policy."

It should have been titled "Pro-Yucca Dump Pep Rally" instead! Led by Shimkus himself, almost all of the statements from congressional subcommittee members called for the dump targeted at Nevada to be revived, even though the vast majority of the State of Nevada is opposed.

Even the witnesses were strongly biased in favor of the Yucca dump. These included a nuclear power utility CEO, the far from neutral U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff official in charge of the Yucca licensing proceeding, a Public Service Commission official (where "public service" often means serving the public up for dinner to the nuclear power industry), and a spokesman from a long shutdown atomic reactor currently engaged in a prolonged decommissioning process. In short, all of these spokespeople had an overriding agenda to get the radioactive waste the nuclear power utilities profited from generating in the first place onto the roads, rails, and waterways, preferably bound for Yucca Mountain, NV.

The lone Yucca dump opponent, Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Geoff Fettus, very ably articulated the position of a thousand environmental and public interest groups across the country which have helped block the dump for decades. In fact, on behalf of such groups as NIRS, Public Citizen, Citizens Action Coalition of IN, and NV Nuclear Waste Task Force, Fettus successfully argued the case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, from 2002-2004. That environmental court victory resulted in EPA's being ordered back to the drawing board on its Yucca regulations. In 2008, under the court's order, EPA admitted that 10,000 years of regulation at Yucca was far from enough. Rather, the high-level radioactive wastes would remain hazardous for a million years.

But the rigged nature of this hearing was best exemplified by an exchange between Rep. Shimkus and NRDC's Fettus. Shimkus asked the witnesses, yes or no, should the Yucca dump licensing proceeding be restarted. All the witnesses said yes, except for Fettus. But as Fettus calmly attempted to explain the reasons why, Shimkus simply shouted him down, attempting to put words in his mouth.

A video recording of the entire hearing is posted at the Subcommittee's website, as is the transcript, witness prepared statements, etc.


"Obama Administration threatens veto on nuclear funding bill"

As reported by Jaclyn Brandt in FierceEnergy, President Obama has threated to veto the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill (HR 2028), unless changes are made -- such as to better promote renewables.

The very pro-nuclear bill also includes $175 million for the U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revive the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump licensing proceeding. The process was halted when the Obama administration effectively cancelled the project in 2009-2010, de-funding the dump, and even moving to withdraw the application to construct and operate the repository.

As reported by the article:

The president's statement also said the funding for the Yucca Mountain project is a "rejection of the practical solutions proposed in the President's nuclear waste strategy."

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who has successfully led the opposition to the Yucca dump since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, can be expected to yet again block any additional funding from being wasted on the Yucca dump.