Friday, March 06, 2009

Yucca Mountain Project to be Shuttered?

For two decades, a ridge of volcanic rock 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas known as Yucca Mountain has been the sole focus of government plans to store highly radioactive nuclear waste.

Not anymore.

Despite the $13.5 billion that has been spent on the project, the Obama administration says it's going in a different direction.

It slashed funding for Yucca Mountain in its recently announced budget.

And on Thursday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a Senate hearing that the Yucca Mountain site no longer was viewed as an option for storing reactor waste, brushing aside criticism from several Republican lawmakers.

Instead, Chu said the Obama administration believes the nearly 60,000 tons of used reactor fuel can remain at nuclear power plants while a new, comprehensive plan for waste disposal is developed.


Obama's 2010 budget calls for scrapping all spending on Yucca Mountain except for what is needed to answer questions from the NRC on the license application "while the administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal."


Now I'm torn here.

There have been some less than reassuring bits coming out of the Yucca Mountain Project. There are a few geology 'hmmms.' However, some of that is equivocal.

On the other hand, this is a case of without this, the nuke industry restart will stall at best. Nuclear waste needs a long term solution. In 4, 8 years we're not likely to have a replacement for burying it, unless Dr Chu has an ace up his sleeve. (which I doubt) Since this is one of the known technology ways we can fight global warming, it's rather depressing that Obama has decided to go this route.

Someone's gonna get 'screwed.' NM has already taken in the WIPP. NV, being one of the least populated and uninhabitable states, needs to pony up.

However, my irritation and depression from this decision aside: Senator McCain, knock-off the "Mr Chu" bit. While Chu doesn't have PhD-itis, if you want to be formal with him, the man's damn well earned his doctorate and a Nobel Prize. Some modicum of respect is required and has been freakin earned. Dr Chu it ought to be. Or should we start referring to you as 'Mr McCain' from now on?


Suz said...

As a former NMican who was (and still is) pro WIPP and is now living in the Vegas area, I'd like to jump in here and say that Yucca Mountain being shuttered is likely a good thing based on what I've read in the local media.

Granted, most of the time it's been difficult to get through the articles due to my bullsh*t meter being pegged, but there's been a lot of really effed up "science" going on. Where "science" involves doing what ever it takes to "make the site work" and it taking five years to discover/determine that the fault line was not where they originally thought it to be. Along with the investigation into USGS data falsification. Plus a few other lovely things like the government's blatant disregard of cease and desist orders by courts of law.

As a scientist, I don't feel that there's anything that the government can do or say at this point that will result in believable (i.e. non tainted) data, and that continuing with the Yucca Mountain project would result in a nuclear waste version of Love Canal. (Having researched Love Canal before, I know that's a mostly accurate Wiki. My biggest gripe is that not enough emphasis is placed on the whole fiasco being the fault of the City of Niagra Falls, not Hooker Chemical Company, but that's a different rant) What makes this even worse is that I *KNOW* that the proposed solution of keeping the waste where it's at is NEITHER a good NOR viable solution. Hanford Site anyone?

Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions for a good location. My understanding is that Yucca Mountain wasn't the only location on that list in 2002. Re-examination of that list might be a good place to start. I'd suggest that a more better place be found in Nevada, but with the stellar job the government has done with Yucca, I don't think that's ever going to be viable (at least not in our lifetimes).

Anonymous said...

Why bury the waste?
Build a 1 KM square 10 meter wall and concrete floor in modular fashion. Have robotic vehicles stack the drums or whatever containers in modules with pathways between. Use robotic patrols and a few Border Patrol govt employees to guard the site inside a 1.1 Km square chain link fence.
Once reporcessing of waste is politically and economically viable, go get what's needed.