Report seeks restart of Yucca Mountain project

Independent agency says Yucca decision not based on science

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The U.S. Energy Department failed to cite technical or safety issues in its hasty termination of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and should make preliminary plans to restart the project, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a new 80-page report, investigators said political pressure is a greater obstacle than science to projects such as Yucca Mountain, and warned that halting it -- after spending $15 billion -- could cause new delays in the decadeslong search for a permanent solution to a growing national stockpile of spent nuclear fuel.

"There is no guarantee that a more acceptable or less costly alternative will be identified," the report said, referring to the efforts of the Blue Ribbon Commission formed by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to develop other strategies for nuclear waste.

In fact, the report continued, "termination could instead restart a costly and time-consuming process to find and develop an alternative permanent solution. It would also likely prolong the need for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel at reactor sites, which would have financial and other impacts."

Currently, the nation's 104 operating power reactors create about 2,000 tons of the material each year, adding to 70,000 tons stored mostly at those power plants.

Much of that material is kept in concrete-lined pools, where water keeps the fuel rods cool. More secure, above-ground cask storage systems can also be built.

Even before spent fuel at Japan's doomed Fukushima reactor complex was feared to be overheating, concerns over the safety of spent fuel at U.S. facilities were being voiced.

In 2002, Congress approved Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the site of a national nuclear waste repository, but it was canceled under an Obama administration edict, spawning a series of lawsuits that remain unresolved.

GAO investigators consulted dozens of stakeholders across the U.S. -- including Southern Co., which operates Plant Vogtle in Georgia; and the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, which helps regulate nuclear power plants and waste sites.

Most organizations interviewed identified two broad lessons for developing a future waste management strategy.

"First, social and political opposition to a permanent repository, not technical issues, is the key obstacle. Important tools for overcoming such opposition include transparency, economic incentives, and education. Second, it is important that a waste management strategy have consistent policy, funding, and leadership, especially since the process will likely take decades."

GAO recommended that the Secretary of Energy further explore the risks that terminating Yucca Mountain could pose for future radioactive materials management and also "develop a preliminary plan to restart the project, in case DOE is required to do so."

Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission mostly concurred with the study, Energy Department officials disagreed with many points.

In a 14-page response from Peter Lyons, the acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy, DOE countered that the GAO conclusions were based on mistaken assumptions that the Yucca Mountain repository would have opened in the first place, and, secondly, that any alternative would take longer to implement and increase spent fuel storage costs beyond what they would have been for Yucca Mountain.

"To the contrary, Lyons wrote, "there was considerable uncertainty whether the Yucca Mountain repository would ever have opened, let alone when. Among other things, the project would have required new legislation, an NRC license and many additional permits."

The department's Blue Ribbon Commission created to explore such alternatives, he noted, is due to issue a draft report in July, followed by final recommendations in early 2012.

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Chillen
17
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Chillen 05/11/11 - 03:10 pm
0
0
I'm starting to believe that

I'm starting to believe that this administration wants us all to push plows behind donkeys and live like it's 1750 again. They are totally anti-energy and anti-business. Their decisions and regulations are killing us. No wonder our economy is in the crapper.

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 05/11/11 - 03:30 pm
0
0
Now Chillen, you KNOW that

Now Chillen, you KNOW that the obama admin. is THE GREATEST in the history of mankind. You would dare speak any words not favorable to his greatness? That is sinful and you should pray for forgiveness.

dwb619
93360
Points
dwb619 05/11/11 - 03:36 pm
0
0
In my 40 years of

In my 40 years of construction, 30 were spent on nuclear sites. The politicians need to stay out this, it's the domain of geologist and spent fuel experts.

Dixieman
14943
Points
Dixieman 05/11/11 - 04:13 pm
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"Politics behind nuke waste

"Politics behind nuke waste issue" - I am shocked! shocked!! to hear this! How can this be?

PR
0
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PR 05/11/11 - 05:10 pm
0
0
Surprise, surprise...Osama
Unpublished

Surprise, surprise...Osama Obama acted outside the law. Typical of the current administration. Just like his attorney general doesn't want to prosecute illegals. Nor does he want to send all the illegals home. Need to get him out of office ASAP, he's turned into a real loser.

Riverman1
83718
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Riverman1 05/11/11 - 06:16 pm
0
0
"DOE countered that the GAO

"DOE countered that the GAO conclusions were based on mistaken assumptions that the Yucca Mountain repository would have ever opened in the first place,"

No, it was being built just to waste money and sit there never being used. Sarcasm. Is that the stupidest remark a government agency has ever made?

Pu239
284
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Pu239 05/11/11 - 07:34 pm
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0
Two Words.........Harry Reid
Unpublished

Two Words.........Harry Reid

JimR100
0
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JimR100 05/12/11 - 07:36 am
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The entire situation is

The entire situation is corrupt!!! Dirty Harry "We lost the War" Reid planted Jaczko on the Commission and then pushed for him to be the Chairman of the NRC under Obama SPECIFICALLY so he could derail the NRC Review of the YMP License Application from the inside. In parallel, he got Steven Chu to flip-flop his position on the YMP in order to gain appointment to the Secretary of Energy job. Further, the sitting NRC Commissioners all had to agree not to challenge DOE's pulling the License Application during their confirmation hearings in order to be confirmed. All of these idiots and obstructionists are in violation of the LAW!!! Reid, Waxman, Jaczko, Chu, Berkley, Heller ALL need to be thrown out of their jobs… I’d even go further and have them arrested for violating FEDERAL LAW.

DawgnSC69
271
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DawgnSC69 05/12/11 - 08:52 am
0
0
Right Pu239 Harry and all of

Right Pu239
Harry and all of his buddies were all for it during design and construction because it employed thousands of people.
Now that the M&O takes over only a small handfull will be needed and it's not beneficial to him.
CORRUPT-CORRUPT
He and all of his buddies in DC that made the decision to cancel the project should really be arrested.

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