Strangled in the crib

The Obama administration has given Savannah River Site some very good news and some potentially very bad news.

The good news is SRS will get $1.62 billion in stimulus money to accelerate environmental cleanup at the former nuclear bomb-building plant. The money is expected to create some 3,000 jobs into at least 2011.

The bad news is that the administration is reversing the nation's course on storing nuclear waste at the long-planned national repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

And that means the waste will be stored at SRS indefinitely.

"I think it's horrible," says Mal McKibben, emeritus executive director of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness in Aiken. "Yucca Mountain was a smart thing."

The science hasn't changed in a year. Nor has any credible report emerged to detail how plans and facilities at Yucca Mountain have fallen short in any way.

The only thing that has ensued since last year to explain this radical change in policy is an election.

Politics is about to trump science, logic and national security.

The Obama administration isn't opting for another policy, either. It isn't replacing Yucca Mountain with a better alternative.

It's replacing Yucca Mountain with a blue ribbon committee that will study what has already been studied by archaeologists, climatologists and geologists for years and years.

"There is no better answer" than Yucca Mountain, says McKibben, a nuclear expert. "It's clearly the best place to put it. The location we have is the best one in the country, for sure."

Asians and Europeans are jealous of Yucca Mountain, McKibben says.

No need to be now. To the delight of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Obama administration has strangled Yucca Mountain in its crib.

"It's dead," Coroner Reid happily declares.

Even Sen. John McCain, a proponent of clean nuclear energy and of Yucca Mountain, seems to think it's time to pull the plug on the site.

"Nuclear power is a critical component in securing our nation's energy future and reducing greenhouse gas emission," McCain said in a statement, "and I believe that moving forward on Yucca Mountain is a key step in growing a strong nuclear industry. However, if opponents of Yucca Mountain are going to hold this project hostage, then we shouldn't be charging the American taxpayer and utilities for this facility."

Not everyone is throwing dirt on the coffin. South Carolina state Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, introduced a resolution that urges Congress to stay the course and open Yucca Mountain. It was quickly co-sponsored by 22 other senators.

"Opening Yucca Mountain will not only fulfill the obligation that Washington made to Savannah River decades ago, but it will also sustain the existence of thousands of good jobs and the creation of many more," Ryberg said.

"Yucca Mountain is vital to the continued prosperity of Aiken County and the surrounding communities, and we call upon the federal government to keep its promise."

Ironically, Ryberg had also pushed a measure that critics said would've led to more nuclear waste coming to SRS from out of state for reprocessing. With Yucca Mountain apparently on the way out, some fear that such waste would remain at SRS.

Savannah River Site was a vital part of this country's national security for decades. With a huge chunk of land, usable facilities and lots of brainpower still there, the facility has potential for future missions, perhaps both civil and commercial.

But never did we sign up to have SRS, located in the heavily populated Southeast, used as a nuclear waste dump.

That's what we appear to be getting at this point.

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Sun, 12/04/2016 - 18:09

Now the watchdogs bark