A green future must also include nuclear

Published on Thursday, 3 December 2015 19:18 - Written by

The one conclusion that climate activists and political leaders should reach in Paris is this - we already have reliable, clean power. It’s nuclear, and if we’re serious about carbon emissions, we must expand it.

Solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy are, as yet, not reliable enough to depend upon. Nuclear is, but Democrats have effectively blocked its development in the U.S.

It’s time for that to change.

“In the lead-up to the 2016 election, the most formidable candidates vying to serve as our next president have largely avoided the topic of nuclear power,” notes the Huffington Post. “Indeed, they have encountered little pressure to address it even as the Paris climate talks open, with none of the Republican or Democratic debates so far including a single, specific question on nuclear energy.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has addressed it, but few others have.

That’s a shame, because nuclear is the only real option for clean energy in the foreseeable future.

So what’s standing in the way? Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

As the Huffington Post explains, “Those who remain cautious about any reliance on nuclear energy point out that following cancellation of the Yucca Mountain project, there is no safe and permanent repository for roughly 70,000 metric tons of U.S.-produced spent nuclear fuel already in existence, nor the additional 2,200 metric tons of spent fuel produced in the U.S. annually.”

Reid is single-handedly responsible for shutting down Yucca Mountain, which is in his state. It doesn’t matter to him that the Department of Energy has spent more than $15 billion developing Yucca Mountain.

A recent study shows that Yucca Mountain is the safest option for long-term storage. It’s essentially a big rock in the middle of nowhere.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ... released a long-delayed report on the suitability of Yucca Mountain as a disposal spot for nuclear waste, finding that the design met the commission’s requirements, laying the groundwork to restart the project if control of the Senate changes hands in the elections next month,” the New York Times reported last year.

The project hasn’t been restarted.

As far back as 1995, a 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.

And every U.S. Department of Energy study since them has similar findings - that nuclear waste can be safely stored at the Yucca Mountain site.

It didn’t help that last summer, President Obama created three new national monuments - including 700,000 acres of public land he’s named the Basin and Range National Monument. It cuts off access to Yucca Mountain.

Obama said at the time he was using his power to designate national monuments to preserve the environment. But he did precisely the opposite.

Nuclear energy is the only real hope on the horizon for reliable, clean power. And the U.S. nuclear industry needs Yucca Mountain. Until we reconcile those two needs, all of the statements and commitments made in Paris are nothing but hot air.