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Posts Tagged ‘Yucca Mountain’


Friday, April 1st, 2011

April 1, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

What Nuclear Townhall prints today, CBS News features tomorrow. In a remarkably clear-eyed analysis, CBS has revealed the narrow partisan politics that have temporarily killed the Yucca Mountain project and highlighted what it means to the rest of the country.

Instead of putting opponents on camera to rant about the “nuclear dump” that is a “catastrophe waiting to happen,” CBS reporters went out to Nye County and found that almost everybody scheduled to live near the project actually favors it. Jobs and income are the reason, of course. Then the newscasters dug into the files (or leafed through back stories on NTH) and found that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko had killed the project single-handed and excised whole sections out of the safety report, to the dismay of staff and other commissioners. This was paired with clips of Presidential candidate Barack Obama promising Nevada voters he would not allow Yucca to open.

“Critics charge you were simply doing the bidding of your former boss, Harry Reid,” the reporter says to Jaczko on camera. The chairman dances around the issue before ending that “the decision was in the best interest of the agency.”

The obvious motive here is that millions of Americans have suddenly discovered that it isn’t such a good idea to have spent fuel sitting around in cooling pools decade after decade and that a national repository – or perhaps even some form of reprocessing – wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The report ends solemnly, “Still, nuclear wastes sits scattered across 35 states . . . and Yucca Mountain sits silent, and empty.” 

Even more remarkable, the Yucca report was followed by a piece on radiation pointing out that levels detected on the West Coast are barely above background and that irrational fear of radiation was a much bigger health threat than the radiation itself. If nothing else, the Fukushima accident has caused an outbreak of common sense at CBS News.

See the video here

DOE Yucca Mountain Blue Ribbon Commission Issues Report ‘What We’ve Heard’

Friday, March 25th, 2011


Monday, March 21st, 2011

March 21, 2011
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors


The immediate reaction from anti-nuclear activists to the nuclear crisis in Japan is likely to be an immediate call to close down similar American plants and stop relicensing. Pickets are already preparing to assemble outside Vermont Yankee and Indian Point.

Reasoned concern is likely, however, to focus around the issue of spent fuel. As the events at Fukushima have revealed, the spent fuel pools can be potentially vulnerable and on-site stockpiles are mounting in the U.S.
The Chicago Tribune tackles this question in an editorial this weekend, leading to the inevitable conclusion – why not revive Yucca Mountain:

“Obvious question: Why do nuclear plants store spent fuel that way?

“Obvious answer in the U.S.:

Yucca Mountain isn’t open. In the 1980s, the federal government launched plans to develop nuclear waste storage carved into the mountain in Nevada and let it slowly and harmlessly decay.

But lawsuits, politics and environmental challenges stalled the project for decades.”

The Tribune takes the Obama Administration to task for its ongoing attempt to terminate the project, largely at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“The decision to mothball Yucca was a huge mistake, and the Obama administration should recognize that in the wake of the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan. . . .

“Wake-up call: Illinois is home to more spent fuel rods than any other state in the nation.”

Read more at the Chicago Tribune


Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Press release follows below:


February 24, 2011

Press Office
(202) 226-4972
Energy & Commerce Leaders Press Energy Dept. on Yucca Mountain, Status of Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Collected for Disbanded Project
WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) today sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu seeking answers on the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository. Upton and Shimkus are concerned that despite the scientific community’s seal of approval as well as billions of taxpayer dollars collected for the project, the administration inexplicably pulled the plug on the Yucca repository without offering a viable alternative. 
In the letter to Energy Secretary Chu, Upton and Shimkus expressed concern over the billions of dollars that have been collected from the American public’s monthly electric bills. The two lawmakers wrote, “In the case of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (the Act) we have extra obligations:  a fiduciary duty to consumers who, under the Act, have paid billions of dollars into the Waste Fund only—so far—to receive nothing in return; and a moral obligation to stop the flow of taxpayer dollars from the U.S. Treasury to pay damages to plant operators whose contracts with the Department of Energy (the Department) to transfer possession of nuclear waste material are breached.”
Upton and Shimkus further wrote, “It would be difficult to draft legislation to make the Act more plain, specific, and mandatory than it already is.  However, all three of these problems must be solved:  the establishment of a permanent facility for accepting high level waste; the consumers paying out billions of dollars and receiving nothing in return; and the Treasury paying out billions of dollars in damages with no real end in sight due to the Department’s failure to meet its obligations." 


Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

February 23, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

One of the most persistent myths about nuclear power is that there is no residual value to spent fuel and that the costs of dealing with this supposedly intractable problem are foisted on the public’s coffers.
Disproving the latter thesis once again, the Wisconsin Electric Power Company settled this week for $45.5 million for its share of the government’s partial breach of contract for failing to acceptance commercial spent nuclear fuel beginning in 1998.  The utility won a lawsuit for $51 million in 2009 but the government had appealed.  Some industry estimates put the government’s overall liability at in excess of $50 billion ultimately.
“Now, WE Energies has revealed that the government initiated discussions with the utility in the second half of 2010 and offered to settle the lawsuit,” says this report on World Nuclear News. “Accordingly, on 8 February the parties signed an agreement in which the US has agreed to pay Wisconsin Electric $45.5 million in full and final settlement of the suit. Wisconsin Electric intends return the $31 million net proceeds after litigation costs to its customers, and has written to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to enable it to set up the necessary mechanisms.”
Other states and utilities have indicated they will be asking for money back as well. In December, South Carolina Governor-elect told President Obama in a private meeting that “the federal government has reneged on its promise, and South Carolina wants a refund.”  Both South Carolina and Washington State have sued to block the NRC closedown of the Yucca project. Exelon collected the first $300 million refund in 2008 and other utilities are now following in its path. The payments do not come out of the Nuclear Waste Fund but out of general revenues.
Still, the unraveling of the federal effort casts a shadow over any attempt to build a permanent repository – or better yet initiate a reprocessing strategy. The situation may become clearer or cloudier when the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future makes its report sometime in the next several months.

Read more about it at Nuclear World News



Saturday, February 19th, 2011

February 19, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
An amendment seeking to cut funding for the Yucca Mountain program for government fiscal year 2011 was defeated by a voice vote shortly after midnight during the stretch drive by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to finalize a spending bill with “the largest single discretionary spending cut in the history of the nation.” 
The Yucca defunding amendment was offered by Congressman Dean Heller (R-Nevada).  The Heller amendment would have eliminated approximately $200 million in funding for the program, which continues to receive funds under a continuing resolution despite efforts by the Obama Administration to terminate the program.
The House bill also includes a pro-Yucca Mountain provision seeking to thwart an ongoing effort by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko to shut-down the agency’s Yucca Mountain review without any final determination by the Commission with regard to the Atomic Safety Licensing Board’s rejection of the Energy Department’s license withdrawal request.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers hailed the Yucca Mountain review rider in a statement saying “in addition to spending cuts, the legislation also contains multiple provisions to stop harmful regulations or programs that would hurt the nation’s economy and inhibit the ability of American businesses to create jobs, such as onerous EPA “greenhouse gas” regulations, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility application process, and the Obama Administration’s health care reform act.
The House spending package, which passed the House with a party line vote, heads to an uncertain future in the Senate.  The current continuing resolutions expires on March 4.


Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report – Appendix A


Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report – Volume 2

Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report – Volume 3



Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

January 19, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled his top ten legislative priorities for Nevada for the newly convened 112th Congress at a news conference today at the aptly named – for this occasion — Bombard Electric, a solar company based in Las Vegas.
While touting “creating good-paying clean energy jobs in Nevada,” Reid unveiled a list that included “eliminating funding for Yucca Mountain” as his 5th ranked priority. 
According to a news release distributed by Reid’s Washington office, “Senator Reid will continue leveraging his position as Majority Leader to ensure the ill-conceived Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump proposal is dead forever, blocking any further attempts to revive the defunct project.”
“My primary focus is to strengthen Nevada’s competitiveness by creating good paying clean energy jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, preparing our workforce to compete in the global economy and investing in Nevada’s small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Reid. 
“The last time I checked nuclear energy was both clean energy and a significant generator of jobs,” quipped a pro-Yucca Mountain advocate who asked not to be identified.

For more, read here.


Monday, January 10th, 2011

The U.S. Court of Appeals has issued an order scheduling oral arguments regarding the Obama Administration’s termination of the Yucca Mountain program for March 22. Chief Judge David Sentelle and Circuit Judges Janice Rogers Brown and Brett Kavanaugh will hear the case.

A separate order will be issued regarding the allocation of time for government defendants and a panoply of state plaintiffs, which include the states of South Carolina and Washington.
Sentelle was appointed to the court by President Reagan. Brown and Kavanaugh were appointed by President George W. Bush.


Saturday, December 18th, 2010


December 18, 2010

Nuclear Townhall 
The Federal government's recorded liabilities for "its inability to accept commercial spent nuclear fuel" from utilities are now estimated at $15.5 billion accordingly to a new U.S. Department of Energy Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2010. The liability estimate for partial breach of contract under the terms of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act is up over $2 billion dollars from the previous fiscal year estimate of $13.2 billion. The new estimate is net of $841 million in settlements already paid to utilities, which leaves the total liability estimate at $16.2 billion.
While the significant year-over-year increase is not highlighted in messages from Energy Secretary Steven Chu or Chief Financial Officer Steve Isakowitz in the 134-page November 12, 2010 report, the liability increase is flagged as material in the KPMG LLP Auditors' Report, which accompanies the report.
Although the report characterizes industry estimates of $50 billion in ultimate damages as "highly inflated" it cautions that "future determinations on how the Department will meet its obligations… could materially decrease or increase the spent nuclear fuel litigation liability." Approximately 50 cases remain pending in the Court of Federal Claims or in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Settlements are paid out of the Department of Justice's Judgment Fund.
The report notes that the Department "remains committed to meeting its obligations to manage and ultimately dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste" and says, "The Secretary has convened a Blue Ribbon Commission of experts to evaluate alternative approaches to meet the Federal government's responsibility."