Yucca Mountain: our green future

Published on Sunday, 18 August 2013 21:29 - Written by

Nuclear energy is the only proven “green” energy producer, so this should be good news to environmentalists such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. An appeals court has restarted the process for opening Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste depository.

It’s not, of course, which brings into question once again the sincerity of those who say they want the United States to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“In a rebuke to the Obama administration, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been violating federal law by delaying a decision on a proposed nuclear waste dump in Nevada,” the Associated Press reported last week. “By a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the commission to complete the licensing process and approve or reject the Energy Department’s application for a never-completed waste storage site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.”

What is Yucca Mountain? It’s the best and safest storage facility imaginable for nuclear waste. The federal government already has spent more than $15 billion on the site over the last three decades.

A 1995 National Academy of Sciences report concluded underground storage is safe, and also that governments must act quickly to alleviate the accumulating waste in above-ground temporary storage facilities. The NAS scientists also asserted the problem of nuclear waste disposal is purely political, and that waste disposal at an underground facility is safe from a scientific standpoint.

And a U.S. Department of Energy study had similar findings — that nuclear waste could be safely stored at the Yucca Mountain site.

Joe Colvin, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said the DOE report “on years of scientific study offers further support of the suitability of Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository for used fuel from the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants and high level radioactive waste from the nation’s defense programs.”

So what’s the problem? Yucca Mountain is in Sen. Harry Reid’s home state.

“The Obama administration, under pressure from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, abandoned the project early in the president’s first term,” AP explains. “In 2011, the NRC allowed the shutdown to stand, citing ‘budgetary limitations’ imposed by Congress.”

Indeed, Reid has pledged it will never open, as long as he’s in power.

“With no disrespect to the court, this decision means nothing,” Reid responded last week. “Yucca Mountain is an afterthought.”

Realistically, however, all the green energy projects funded by the federal government since the financial crisis began have yielded little. A few places in the United States incorporate some wind or some solar energy into the power grid, but only nuclear energy has proven itself as a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

As the Heritage Foundation’s Jack Spencer points out, “Ultimately, the road to cleaner air must run through Yucca Mountain. The choice, then, is clear. Nuclear energy, carbon dioxide or the lights go out. What’s it going to be?”

There’s no better option for disposal of nuclear waste, and there’s no other option for green energy. Congress must open Yucca Mountain.