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A New Nuclear Waste Administration?

Proposal would take responsibility for finding a home for nuke byproducts away from the Department of Energy.

by
Bill Straub

Bio

August 4, 2013 - 12:00 am
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WASHINGTON – Legislation dealing with how to handle nuclear waste now that a proposed repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been nixed represents “a thoughtful approach” in the view of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, but he passed when given the opportunity to give the Obama administration’s imprimatur to the proposal.

Appearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, Moniz said the bipartisan measure offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking member, “supports the goals of establishing a new, workable, long-term solution for nuclear waste management” and promised to meet with lawmakers to develop an equitable plan.

“Any workable solution for the final disposition of used fuel and nuclear waste must be based not only on sound science but also on achieving public acceptance at the local and state/tribal levels,” Moniz said.

A “consent-based solution for the long term management of our used fuel and nuclear waste,” Moniz said, “is one that meets the country’s national and energy security needs, has the potential to gain the necessary public acceptance and can scale to accommodate the increased needs of a future that includes expanded nuclear power deployment.”

Nuclear power, Moniz said, “has an important role in President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to energy and will play a significant part in reducing carbon pollution under the president’s Climate Action Plan.”

Congress has been wrestling with the nuclear waste issue for years, unsure what to do with the spent reactor fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Lawmakers thought they reached a solution in 2002 when Congress designated a site in Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as the official repository.

But the option attracted strong opposition, particularly from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, who argued that the repository “threatened the health and safety of Nevadans and people across our nation” and insisted that it is “simply not a safe or secure site to store nuclear waste for any period of time.”

After grappling with the issue, Congress, acting at the request of the Obama administration, terminated the project in April 2012. In his budget request looking to kill the project, President Obama acknowledged that nuclear power is “an important source of electricity for many years to come and that how the nation deals with the dangerous byproduct of nuclear reactors is a critical question that has yet to be resolved.”

The nation, he said, “needs a better solution than the proposed Yucca Mountain repository,” hinting that any facility dedicated to holding nuclear waste must carry local support, which Yucca Mountain decidedly did not.

The termination left the U.S. without prospects for a long-term storage site for radioactive waste. Remnants currently are stored at various nuclear facilities across the country. The delay in opening the federal repository resulted in spent fuel accumulating at plant sites. By the end of 2011, more than 67,000 metric tons of spent fuel remained at plant sites. None of it resided in a federal repository.

“When this administration took office, the timeline for opening Yucca Mountain had already been pushed back by two decades, stalled by public protest and legal opposition, with no end in sight,” Moniz said. “It was clear that the stalemate could continue indefinitely. Rather than continuing to spend billions of dollars more on a project that faces such strong opposition” the Department of Energy continues to seek alternatives.

As it turns out, Yucca Mountain probably wasn’t substantial enough to get the job done anyway. The site was not designed to be big enough to handle all of the spent fuel and nuclear waste that will need disposal.

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All Comments   (9)
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my roomate's aunt makes $89 an hour on the laptop. She has been without a job for 6 months but last month her pay was $21876 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more ... http://xurl.es/coohx
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Recycling, er, reprocessing of the spent fuel (like the rest of the nuclear powered nations practice) would require redefining as it's currently high level waste. Maybe, but not likely. What might make sense would be to develop a serious, fact-based energy policy and use its implementation to re-energize America from the bottom, up.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bureaucratic shuffling will do nothing except increase overhead and delay. Reid's obstruction to Yucca Mountain is less about any conceivable threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Nevada as it is to political payoffs to increase his legislative power.

Remember, Yucca Mountain is just over the hill from Yucca Flats were we set off a thousand nuclear explosions:

http://www.brookings.edu/FP/PROJECTS/NUCWCOST/craters.jpg

Now, reprocessing and burning the really problematic actinides in special little reactors might even be cheaper in the long run. It would certainly eliminate our uranium imports.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
my roomate's sister makes $60 an hour on the internet. She has been without work for 5 months but last month her payment was $17754 just working on the internet for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more... www.Can99.com
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
my roomate's step-mother makes $70/hour on the laptop. She has been fired for eight months but last month her pay check was $12727 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site...>>. http://xurl.es/r1kkq
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just a thought but why not put it back where we found it? Make it a rule if you dig it up you also dig a hole big enough to bury an equal quantity of spent fuel right there on site. I mean, I'm no expert and have no idea what that would entail but it seems to me that the area was radioactive when they dug it up then why complain if we add an equal amount back again? I shouldn't think it would be much more radioactive after it had been used than it was laying around in the ground beforehand and the ground is already wasted anyway.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is actually quite a bit more radioactive after it's been used. Natural uranium is pretty near stable, it has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Spent fuel contains fission products that have half-lives anywhere from seconds to centuries, as well as transuranic elements that have half-lives into the tens and hundreds of millions of years.

There's also the issue of biological half-life, how long the element stays in your body. Uranium has a rather short one, the body has no use for it and can readily excrete it. Things like cesium, iodine, and plutonium can linger in the body for years, and if they are radioisotopes of those elements they will decay and cause biological damage the entire time.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
And what will make a new bureaucracy any less susceptible to the problems plaguing the old? Nothing. Allthis does is grow more government without actually fixing anything. It just shifts the problem sideways.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
It doesn't matter where they decide to store it. Somebody will whine (yes YOU dirty Harry Reid), somebody's palm will get liberally greased and the can will go on down the road. The environmentalists continue to block ANY solution to ANY problems with nuclear waste storage while screaming about coal or natural gas powered electrical generating plants dirtying up "their" air. Throw in their desire to tear down all the dams in the western United States that provide any substantial electricity and what do you have? YOU HAVE A BUNCH OF BRAINLESS NITWITS THAT WANT EVERYBODY (but themselves) TO LIVE IN CAVES AND FREEZE TO DEATH IN THE DARK! The day the power truly goes off and the loss of elevators, refrigeration, water and all the rest of the things that make their life liveable in the cities they inhabit will be a rude awakening for them! The enviros truly deserve all the nasty consequences that will come about when their dreams come true.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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