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  • Morning Bell: Obama's Nuclear Divide

    President-elect Barack Obama has a number of challenges to tackle when he takes office in January. One of his promises is to change the weather — by addressing global climate change.

    While only Congress (or the EPA) can implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade policy, Obama would surely sign the bill. In fact, in his New Energy for America plan, he called for a cap-and-trade plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

    To put this in perspective, the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade legislation that quickly died on the Senate floor in June proposed 70% reduction of 2005 levels by 2050. The Heritage Foundation released a study on the economic costs of the Lieberman-Warner climate change act that detailed the burden cap-and-trade would impose on the economy. If the Lieberman-Warner bill would have imposed a $4.8 trillion hit to GDP by 2030 and nearly 1 million jobs lost in certain years, just imagine what Obama’s plan would do. The Heritage analysis of the Lieberman-Warner bill also projects a huge jump in energy prices, including gasoline.

    Fortunately, there’s a silver lining or perhaps, a silver bullet. Obama supports nuclear energy. In a primary debate at Dartmouth last year, he asserted:

    I don’t think that we can take nuclear power off the table. What we have to make sure of is that we have the capacity to store waste properly and safely, and that we reduce whatever threats might come from terrorism. And if we can do that in a technologically sound way, then we should pursue it.

    While this is encouraging, hurdles to expand nuclear remain. In terms of managing spent nuclear fuel:

    Barack Obama and Joe Biden do not believe that Yucca Mountain is a suitable site. They will lead federal efforts to look for safe, long-term disposal solutions based on objective, scientific analysis.

    With a nuclear energy push on the horizon, resolving the issue of managing spent nuclear fuel will be critical to the sustainability of nuclear power in the United States. But there are two big problems with Obama and Biden’s position.

    First, both recycling and interim storage would provide flexibility, but geologic storage is a must-have and what better place than Yucca Mountain? Worried about getting it there? Don’t be. Nuclear waste has been transported on roads and railways worldwide for years without a significant incident. Indeed, more than 20 million packages with radioactive materials are transported globally each year — 3 million of them in the United States. Since 1971, more than 20,000 shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste have been transported more than 18 million miles without incident.

    Obama says we need solutions based on objective, scientific evidence. Yucca Mountain has all that. No scientific, safety, or technological reason prevents it. Volumes of data attest to the repository’s safety. These data have been generated by numerous sources, including both private and government entities. Simply put, this is a political issue — not a scientific one.

    And secondly, Obama argues for federal efforts to lead the charge, but that’s the last thing we need. The federal government has been at fault since the industry’s decline. The federal government promised to take title of the used fuel and dispose of it; this removed any incentive for the private sector to develop better ways to manage the fuel that could be more consistent with an emerging nuclear industry. The government’s role should be limited to strict government oversight and fast-tracking new reactors. Heritage’s nuclear expert Jack Spencer has a comprehensive, free-market plan to manage nuclear waste.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to Morning Bell: Obama's Nuclear Divide

    1. don ballew , elk cit says:

      In the 1980s construction was stopped on 32 nuclear power plants and never re-started. What is the state of these plants? DABallew




    3. Ken Jarvis - Las Veg says:

      NV voted FOR O

      HE understands that to get the Nuke waste to Yucca mountain

      will mean it has to GO THRU YOUR TOWN.

      NV has NO Nuke plants

      and putting THEIR Waste here is like

      letting YOUR dog CRAP in MY yard.

      NO WAY.

    4. Gregor Gable SLC, UT says:


      I re-posted this post om my blog. I gave you full credit, with a active link back to the post. PLEASE let me know if this created a problem. Great article.



    5. Gilbert, Largo says:

      1. Storing nuclear waste is rather tricky on the long term. Yucca could be a suitable site … if there are no unexpected surprises as they often see light when depending on human works (see tunnels, etc.).

      2. I ignore if a law (obviously based on our actual knowledge) could decide what will go on in a generation from now. I feel that in 1968, despite MLK speech, anyone ever thought possible the election of another person than a white one to the Presidency. Would you have issued such a law in 1968, for sure you would have pushed to the contrary.

      3. The actual available energy inventory is maybe based on what has been acknowledged and remains FULL of HOLES AND GAPS without even taking into account the energy we spend destroying energy. IMO such lack of knowledge could not drive to a sound law.

      4. Obama inherits of a TERRIBLE situation, which implies the positive help of each one of us, even if …

      As an economist interested in recovering energies and who believes that energies are the real wealth of any country, for sure I prefer not to go hunting and having fun with helicopters!

    6. Kent, Oregon says:

      BAD NEWS: Those nuclear power plants which used to cost $3 billion now cost $20 billion.

      GOOD NEWS: A likely builder of the plants is Westinhouse Corp.

      BAD NEWS: That unit of Westinhouse is now owned by the Japanese. (And, of course, the main manufacturer of windmills is in India.)

      By the way, I live on five acres in the northwest and five acres are forest. With those trees sucking up carbon dioxide, does that mean I'll be a seller under cap and trade? Also there are the federal subsidies for tree farmers and federal grants for forest management. And here I thought it was just a nice place to live!

      And there's no mortgage. (I hope my tongue in my cheek is visible over the internet.)

    7. Pingback: » Morning Bell: Obama’s Nuclear Divide Joe Biden On Best Political Blogs: News And Info On Joe Biden

    8. Pingback: Morning Bell: Obama’s Nuclear Divide at Republicans On Best Political Blogs

    9. Andrew S. Massachuse says:

      As a conservative living in a far left leaning state, I have watched Democrat citizens oppose wind power off the coast because it "spoils the view", vigorously oppose LNG tank farms with "not in my town" attitudes. I find it hard to imagine the liberal cries about a new nuclear power plant in any left leaning state.

    10. Cindy, Texas says:

      Who will Washington and Warren Buffet come after to fund nuclear power plants? YOU AND ME THE TAXPAYERS !! Again our government will want to stick their dirty paws into our wallets to fund private industry!!!

    11. mike hutchings texas says:

      he had his first chance to lower sea levels like he said he would when the hurricane hit galveston.i dont think there is much to him but the show and the show is everything.

    12. Pingback: Morning Bell: Obama’s Nuclear Divide « Nuclear and Indigenous Items of Interest

    13. Thomas Gray South Ca says:

      I just read a report from a reputable source that says Yucca Mountain repository is in an area of active earthquakes and volcanoes and does not meet international standards for a repository. Does anyone here know where I may find the documents that outline these international standards and how many countrys recognize these international standards. If all this is true maybe we better just find a couple of new sites the anti energy activists are going give the utilitys trouble ether way.

    14. Bill Hannahan, CO says:

      I support nuclear power, but Yucca Mountain is a huge waste of money that should stop.

      There are two solutions, short term ( up to 400 years), and long term ( 1-3 billion years ) when the sun swells into a red giant forcing intelligent life off the earth.

      The short term solution is to bury spent fuel under deep seabed mud where it will become less toxic than uranium ore in 0.13 million years. Seawater contains billions of tons of radioactive material naturally, so in the unlikely event of a leak the increase in radioactivity will be insignificant, no one will be harmed.


      Existing reactors split about 1% of mined uranium. The long range solution is to develop 4th generation reactors that will split 60-99% of mined uranium resulting in a waste stream that becomes less radiotoxic than uranium ore in 270 years, and has commercial applications.

      Splitting 1/3 lb. of uranium provides a total 80 year lifetime supply of electricity for an average American. The uranium supply is effectively unlimited. See this comment and the one below it.


    15. Rod Adams says:


      You wrote:

      "Worried about getting it there? Don’t be. Nuclear waste has been transported on roads and railways worldwide for years without a significant incident. Indeed, more than 20 million packages with radioactive materials are transported globally each year — 3 million of them in the United States. Since 1971, more than 20,000 shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste have been transported more than 18 million miles without incident."

      I am not reassured. In order to ease my concerns about "getting it there" I would have to see some economic computations on the cost of moving the kinds of packages currently planning from their current locations to Yucca Mountain.

      Moving stuff from place to place is not necessarily hard, but it is not necessarily easy or cheap, especially when the destination is a remote site with little transportation infrastructure currently in place.

      It may be safe and possible to ship used fuel from Maine or South Florida to Nevada, but there are a lot of miles and a lot of jurisdictions to traverse. There are also a lot of interested parties that can establish cost barriers – the coal dependent railroads, for example are not willing partners in making used fuel transport economical.

      I know we continue to have this discussion, but it will continue until I can get some reassurance that Yucca will not be just a giant money sink – with many politically connected beneficiaries. After all, one man's COST is another man's REVENUE and there is still a lot of COST to be absorbed before Yucca could begin accepting shipments.

      I still believe there is nothing wrong with storing the used fuel the way we have been storing it – safely and inexpensively – for 50 years. Keep it where it is generated, put it in dry storage containers when it is cooled off, and recycle it when we are good and ready.

    16. Thomas Gray South Ca says:

      Mr Cleburne,,

      Well said, and to add insult to injury, the proposed answer [ wind and solar ] cannot replace the massive amounts of electricity we currently consume. It will be interesting to see what happens when everbody's light bill starts climbing faster than they can shut down our remaining nuclear power plants.

    17. Richard, Texas says:

      When has the left ever used "objective, scientific analysis" on anything, especially energy? Any form of energy appears to be off-limits for these fellows. I dislike giving France credit for anything, but their nuclear power plants appear to be working well. Maybe they are on to something! In the interim, we still need to drill here and drill now.

    18. Brian O'Connell says:

      To Thomas Gray's question: For International Standards try:

      As to Yucca being at some risk of "active earthquakes and volcanoes," this is an example of general media reporting that oversimplifies technical issues. The term "active" does not apply to earthquakes (unless one is occuring) but what it does apply to is seismic faults, each of which have geologic characteristics. There are at least two faults in the immediate Yucca Mountain vicinity. They are known and a full seismic evaluation of what risk they may pose will be fully considered by the NRC when it reviews the license application for the proposed repository.

      As for volcanos, I do not believe there are any in the same area, although there are some "young" volcanic formations nearby. Once again, the NRC license review will examine volcanic risks even if it is of low probability.

      For a Yucca Mountain repository overview of safety issues, see:

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