Reid, Obama Yucca-ing up U.S. nuclear waste disposal

Washington's imperial wizards are more like these goats blocking the highway!

There was a time when the United States was a can-do nation that built canals, bridges, railroads, and highways. Now we are a nation whose civil engineers annually report the dangers of decaying infrastructure. A perfect example of how incompetent our government has become is the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

In 1982 the U.S. Congress established a national policy to solve the problem of nuclear waste disposal. As far back as 1957, the National Academy of Sciences had recommended that the best way to address the problem was to dispose of it in deep underground rock. In 1987, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was designated as the site. It was immediately opposed by both environmentalists and others. Congress approved the site in 2002.

An Associated Press article on August 13 reported on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had to complete the licensing progress and approve or reject the Energy Department’s application for the site.

“The court’s decision was hailed by supporters of the Yucca site, which has been the focus of a dispute that stretches back more than three decades,” reported the AP. “The government has spent an estimated $15 billion on the site but never completed it. No waste is stored there.”

The failure to open the Yucca Mountain repository is an obscenity. Instead of storing nuclear waste in the most studied piece of U.S. geography in the history of the nation, it is stored at more than 70 sites around the nation. The Yucca Mountain site was supposed to begin accepting spent fuel by January 31, 1998, over 15 years ago.

The Appeals Court delivered a serious rebuke to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has essentially been treated as a political instrument of the Obama Administration. The Court said the NRC was “simply flouting the law” when it allowed the Obama Administration to continue plans to close the site. This is especially egregious insofar as federal law designates the site as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.

“The President may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections,” said Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who wrote the majority (2 to 1) opinion. “It is no overstatement to say that our constitutional system of separation of powers would be significantly altered if we were to allow executive and independent agencies to disregard federal law in the manner asserted in this case by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

It is not just the President and the NRC that will not uphold the law that Congress passed. It is has been Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV).  Kim Strassel noted in an August 15 commentary that, “Mr. Reid has for years single-handedly thwarted Congress’s will to create a deep storage facility…. Such has been one senator’s ability to render the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 30 years of work, and $15 billion of federal funds moot.”

The arrogance of Sen. Reid, with the support of the President, is that of imperial kings and other monarchs whose personal agenda outweighs the welfare of the rest of the nation. The project was abandoned in the President’s first term; in 2011 the NRC, a supposedly independent agency, allowed the shutdown to stand.

The present claim is that there is no money to move forward with the completion of Yucca Mountain and it is true that opponents in Congress, led by Sen. Reid, have cut nearly all funding in the last three years, but the court said that the NRC has about $11 million remaining for the purpose of funding a review of its safety. Congressional staffers who have seen a redacted draft of the review to date say that is safe.

Nuclear waste, the byproduct of electric power generation at commercial nuclear plants and of high-level radioactive waste from reprocessed spent fuel, must be stored somewhere. Congress addressed that in 1982, more than three decades go. We are still waiting for a rational, practical solution because of politics, not science, nor common sense.

© Alan Caruba, 2013


About the Author: Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba, a CFACT adjunct policy analyst, writes a daily blog at

  1. Bryan William Leyland

    It really is crazy. I cannot understand why everyone is so terrified of nuclear waste.

    I have stood in the hall at Sellafield in the UK where 70% of the UK high level waste is stored. The canisters were stored about 5 feet under my feet. The radiation levels around me were quite normal. If I had stood alongside one of the canisters I would have been dead in two minutes.

    So what that tells you is that it is easy to shield people from intense nuclear radiation.

    People should compare the safety of nuclear stations and nuclear waste storage facilities with that of large dams that do not have good safety standards yet are much more dangerous. Not long ago a dam in Russia (Sayano Shusenskaya) was at risk of failing. It was 600 feet high and If it had failed it would have put 1 million people at risk of drowning. Now that is a really serious risk! it was at risk because a single power failure made it impossible to open the spillway gates. It did not fail because some people were able to find an emergency diesel generator.

    Nuclear stations have three independent backup supplies for critical safety devices. Modern nuclear stations can shut down without a power supply.

    • J.P. Katigbak

      I personally know that for sure. The issue regarding the need for a very proper waste disposal in nuclear power plants should be more meaningfully tackled more in tune with economic realities on the ground.

      Say, why did the activist ideologues and their allies back still up the claims of benefiting various communities of renewable energy without ever realizing of the consequences people would understand about? – J.P.K.

      • J.P. Katigbak

        Again, with my correction, why did the activist ideologues and their closet allies still back up the claims of benefiting various communities from renewable energy without ever realizing the actual consequences ordinary people would do well to understand very much about in their experiences? – J.P.K.

  2. Wise Owl

    the real lie of nuclear power is that it is cheap. this is because the cost of waste disposal is never properly accounted for.

    the problem with nuclear waste is that it remains dangerous for thousands of years. sure those canisters are safe today, but how long will they last?

    even if it only cost one penny per ton per year to store the waste… the true cost of nuclear power would still be in the thousands of dollars per kilowatt when you consider how many thousands of years that waste must be stored.

    wake up people

  3. Donald Kosloff

    As a happy ratepayer for my nuclear generated electricity, I know that the cost of waste disposal is included in my electric bill. Of course, most of my electricity is generated by burning coal. The cost of disposing of coal waste is not properly accounted for. That is interesting because, unlike nuclear waste, coal waste has no half-life. Most coal waste is disposed of in ponds that have a design life of 30 years, for waste that truly is forever. Also, coal waste has already killed more people than nuclear waste. In additon to the toxic coal waste that has no half-life, coal waste includes nuclear waste with a half-life that is longer than most nuclear waste.

  4. It’s sad to think that nobody thinks about the sustainability of the planet until it’s too late. Let’s hope that a new solution for nuclear waste comes up soon!

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