Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Return to Yucca Mountain

"If we are going to continue to modernize our nuclear weapons, if we are going to continue to use nuclear power as 'green', we need fail proof storage for this mounting waste."

Kind of sounds like the Disney flick, "Return to Witch Mountain", doesn't it? Only Witch Mountain was fairly harmless compared to Yucca Mountain. I truly had not given Yucca Mountain much thought recently (even though I addressed it in 2012), but a couple things happened recently which refreshed my thinking. First, the slow motion disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant in Japan. And secondly, now that Harry Reid is gone from the Senate, some in Congress are for restarting the work on Yucca Mountain.

First a bit of a refresher. Way back in 1982 (Reagan years), Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. This allowed for a central repository to store this nation's military and civilian nuclear waste products. In 2002, shortly after the 9/11 attack, President Bush (43) signed into law making the Yucca Mountain the site to fulfill the requirements set forth in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Yucca Mountain had everything the 1982 law required of it. But then we mixed in some local and national politics. Harry Reid (D-NV) hated the idea of having this site in his state. Why? Mostly because it came from a Republican. So when President Obama became POTUS in 2009, it was scuttled.

In any event, many billions have already been spent on Yucca Mountain. Some think to get this site totally up to speed will take close to $100B. WOW!  But right now we have nothing. No long term secure (heavy on the word secure) storage. Nor does Japan. Everyone is using "temporary" casts, which will not cut the mustard. If we are going to continue to modernize our nuclear weapons, if we are going to continue to use nuclear power as "green", we need fail proof storage for this mounting waste.

Here are the facts on the cost of building this site to completion. To date, almost $40B has been spent. It is now estimated that to complete the project could take as much as an additional $60B. The way the funding formula has been established is this - the rate payers who use electricity which comes from the nuclear plants, and the utilities themselves, will pay 80% of the cost. The government will pick up the remaining 20%.

I am not schooled on nuclear technology, but I do know this much. Regardless of the country it is used in, to keep nuclear waste in temporary storage is folly. It is a disaster (or a terrorist target) just waiting to happen. I believe what many scientists now believe. In the future, we will figure out how to harness or maybe even recycle nuclear waste. Or, maybe even to make it inert. 

In any event, until those days come, we need to get moving on Yucca Mountain. Oh yes - the down side. Our electric bills which have been going up like Roman candles as of late - expect more to come if we all need to pay part of the Yucca's cost. We need to do it, but ouch and double ouch. 

1 comment:

  1. What you do not know is that the technology for recycling nuclear waste has long existed, but that stupid Jimmy Carter-- the nuclear engineer of all people-- prohibited its use. If we were to bring that back, the amount of nuclear waste our power plants produce could be reduced by 99%! We don't have a nuclear waste problem, we have a waste of intelligent governance problem.