• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Another Step Forward on Yucca Mountain

    While recycling spent fuel or placing it in interim storage may have a role to play, America’s focus must remain on opening Yucca Mountain in a timely fashion. Despite whatever other technologies are developed, there is an enduring need for permanent geologic storage. Even after used nuclear fuel is recycled, there will still be some left over to be put in a repository like Yucca Mountain. And there’s national defense waste that cannot be recycled and must be placed in a geologic repository; thus, it’s not just an issue for nuclear industries but also for our national government.

    Over the past year, however, legislators have taken some steps in the right direction when it comes to opening Yucca. In June, the Department of Energy submitted a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plan, a necessary step to open Yucca, details a way to safely store and isolate nuclear waste. But the earliest date it can be open is 2017.

    Just yesterday, U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) have filed an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would restore $50 million cut in Defense Contribution for Yucca.

    Senator Inhofe said,

    The United States Senate needs to continue authorizes our contribution to the repository program to cover the costs of defense-related nuclear wastes that require disposal. The request was asked by for the President and included by the House – the Senate needs to do the same. The amendment we filed today would do restore the $50 million dollar cut. The repository should have opened in 1998, but instead, it is over 20 years behind schedule.”

    He’s exactly right; it’s the government’s fault Yucca isn’t open. The federal government has collected approximately $27 billion from nuclear companies, but the nuclear waste is still sitting at reactor sites.

    Needless to say, the nuclear companies that have paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund with rate payers’ money weren’t thrilled about this. Consequently, they sued the government. As a result, taxpayers have already paid $94 million in lawyer expenses and $290 million in damages. The government is appealing another $420 million award. Long-term liability projections are astronomical, reaching $7 billion by 2017 and $11 billion by 2020.

    To make a long story short, the system is broken and the taxpayers are paying for it. And while opening Yucca Mountain is an essential step, overhauling the whole used nuclear fuel management system in the U.S. is also an essential step.

    The best way to do it is to get it out of the government’s hands. A free-market approach to managing nuclear waste is the best way to ensure that the commercial nuclear industry will be sustainable in the long run. Among the steps needed to privatize the system, as outlined by Heritage Research Fellow Jack Spencer, include:

    • Creating the legal framework that allows the private sector to price geologic storage as a com¬modity;
    • Empowering the private sector to manage used fuel;
    • Repealing the 70,000-ton limitation on the Yucca Mountain repository and instead let technology, science, and physical capacity determine the appropriate limit;
    • Creating a private entity that is representative of but independent from nuclear operators to manage Yucca Mountain;
    • Repealing the mil, abolish the Nuclear Waste Fund, and transfer the remaining funds to a private entity to cover the expenses of constructing Yucca Mountain; and
    • Limiting the federal government’s role to providing oversight, basic research, and development and taking title of spent fuel upon repository decommissioning.

    The full paper can be found here. It won’t be easy. But if we’re serious about nuclear energy meeting energy demands and environmental goals, it is without a doubt necessary.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Another Step Forward on Yucca Mountain

    1. Thomas Gray, South C says:

      Times New Roman September 18, 2008

      September the begining of the cold season.

      To the north the supply of ,,,[oil and ng ],,, may be sufficent for the coming winter but to secure these limited energy fuel sources so that the supply's remain safe a ,, higher price must be paid ,, becouse all the other country's that we compete with directly for oil and ng are not all poor,

      and worldwide oil demand is increasing faster than supply. the average person in the U.S.A. does not have the savings to compete for this shrinking energy supply for very long. There are answers to this problem but at this time the people are not willing or not able stop using oil as a transportation fuel,

      and so from the upper class to the bottom class we are going to suffer the consaquences for what the majority of the people are doing if a plan is not forthcoming and implemented to stop using oil as a transportation fuel.

      Oil is currently being used for both home heating and transportation and in all other parts of manufactured products,, the only part of this problem that can be changed is transportation without increasing air and land pollution becouse ng and coal will soon go the way of oil not,, if,, but ,,,,,,,,when,,,,,,, we start using them as a primary source for heat,

      Nuclear energy is the only energy source supplamented by solor wind geo hydro [ and this [ hydro] [can be increased in thousands of places],, but nuclear must be increased simpy becouse it require's very little fossil fuels to produce, the massive amounts of energy 300 million people consume.

      And the fossil fuels are starting to fail and if not soon will be, we can no longer say we have hundreds of years supply of these fuels any more as much as this truth hurt's we must face it and make changes becouse the consquences are going to be much more painfull than the truth if we do not.

      ,,,,Lucky for all,,,,, nuclear powered electricity can be used as a transportation fuel source also, trolly transportation is one of the most pollution free and truck transportation can be changed to this also, the things we must do sometimes are not the things we want to do, the high cost of oil will force us to change. ,,, Tom,,,

    2. John Orth, Grafton, says:

      Jack Spencer's proposal to privitize the Nulcear waste managment and processing facility at Yucca Mountain is the best solution I have heard of yet.

      The NIMBY politics that is holding up the Yucca Mountain project are not logical or productive.

      Yucca Mountain has been selected for sound and well studied reasons after 20 years of research and testing and exceeds the qualifications over the next best sites by a wide margin.

      The reprocessing proposal is also essential to take advantage of the unspent uranium in the existing nuclear waste sitting in above ground, unsecured sites in 33 states with no protection from terrorist attacks.

      Yucca Mountain is adjacent to the nuclear weapons test site that is useless for anyother purpose and should be expedited using the prepaid funds from the nuclear power industry that the government has been collecting since 1982

    3. Thomas Gray, South C says:

      I agree,,

      all the parts of nuclear should be run by private partys. some within government have the wrong or incompatible goals,

      and in the long run we are going to need more R.D. on diffrent levels, waste I think will be an ongoing one becouse of it's value but fuel supply will be another sometime in the future. hopefully solor and some others will mature soon but atom power is the only answer at this time.

      ,,,Tom,,,

    4. Rod Adams, Annapolis says:

      Nick:

      I remain skeptical that Yucca Mountain is worth additional investment. If the billions spent there over the years had been invested in building infrastructure for storage and transportation, my opinion might be different. However, as far as I can tell, the only thing to show for our money is a huge pile of paper, some geological science stored on computers so obsolete that Warren Sproat has indicated that they need to be replaced, and a whole bunch of well armed opposition forces along every necessary transportation path from existing reactors to the site.

      I am all for breaking the DOE monopoly on used fuel material handling and believe that private enterprise can handle the job with well designed supervision from independent regulators. However, as a businessman, I would not sink any more money into the government designated pit called Yucca.

      If I were building a private enterprise designed to handle the task, I would locate it in an area with easy transportation access to a large portion of the nuclear plants and put it in an area where there are already well trained and experienced nuclear workers. I would make sure that the site and its environs had plenty of attractions for workers. I would start with a well secured, above ground storage area and work on advanced methods of recycling the fuel as the inventory builds up.

      I would bet a good deal of money that there are sites in Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico and South Carolina that would enable the construction of storage facilities at a much lower initial and operational cost than Yucca Mountain.

      Rod Adams

      Editor, Atomic Insights

    5. Thomas Gray, South C says:

      08/08/2008 revised updated.

      Subject,,,Oil choices,,The need to use less oil ,,,. ,,,,If,, we can STOP using OIL to get from point A to point B we can,,,, steadily,,,, reduce our consumption and that would in the long answer ,,,solve,,, this problem, flying around in airplanes uses a lot also, THE biggest problem that I see is the amount of oil we use in trucking a critical component of our economy.

      There is not going to be ,,,ANY,,, battery powered ,,interstate trucking,, any time soon if ever, trolley type maybe or hydrogen maybe or some other energy source. THIS question needs to go into a think tank NOW if you perhaps know where there is one.

      World oil production is declining or energy demand is increasing faster than supply so this whole problem is not going to get any better,,,we can run to make changes or we can let the changes make us run. Reducing demand by driving less or inflating tires or slowing down would work if world demand declining but it's not.

      We do need to drill for more oil because not to is commiting transportation energy suicide,,, without a continuing supply nothing is going to get done,

      As soon as the auto makers figure out that people that can't afford to buy gas are not going to buy gas fueled cars, I think they just,,, might,,, start manufacturing electric cars. there are not,,,MANY,,, on the market now in the U.S.A. that I know about, but I will be among those to buy one depending on how long before any are available, at a price I can afford.

      This is the major reason why I'm an advocate of atom power,,, the difference between walking and riding far out weighs the dangers of atom power.

      Don't get me wrong I like pushing shopping carts,,,but not from the store to home.

      We are going to need to stop making plastic things and other oil based products,,, that means we must start using more metal steel tin wood glass etc,,,in the things that we manufacture and use in every day life, yet another reason we need atom power.

      Great artical keep us all up to date,,,,,,,

      9/20/2008, noted.

      Packages sent by mail, and bulk mail from one part of the city (Budapest, Hungary) to the other was delivered by Green, boxy, ugly, but very quite electric cars. This was in the late 30-is and early 40 is. A large battery pack was re charged every night, and never saw one on the side of the road with a battery or motor problem. WHAT HAPPENED? Why don't we have electric cars 60 plus years later? The technology was here, the demand was here.

      GASOLINE WAS CHEAPER AN EASIER TO STORE. Longer distance could be traveled between fueling, the fuel was lighter (batteries are very heavy) That was in the early 20th century. Now we are in the early 21th century.

      recieved,, answer,-

      As our government here in the U.S.A. seems to be unable to face the looming oil shortages to come, I desire to submit a proposal into duly considered and approved by a majority vote, [ Law ] the US government and any other government that cares to join us in trying to solve these issues.

      Created as, all future manufactured products [ none esential household items such as toys appliances furnature ect,, ] , none esential items for sale that require oil in manufacture unless excepted be taken and no longer be manufactured that the requirement for oil be reduced worldwide.

      Many people are not willing to face the things we must soon do, the use of oil must be reduced somehow. Government leaders agree to face these issues for the people, this proposal is not unexplainable and my well find wide spread support among the people that would like to retain an affordable mode of transportation and home heating. ,,,Freezingtoes,,,

      Tom..

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×