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  • President’s Commission on Nuclear Waste Has Historic Opportunity

    The Department of Energy finally announced the formation of its blue-ribbon commission on nuclear waste. The commission, co-chaired by former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft has been charged with reviewing the nation’s nuclear waste policies and providing recommendations for moving forward.

    If carried out properly, the commission could provide an historic opportunity, helping the U.S. set a new approach for managing its nuclear waste. Despite the broad support that nuclear energy currently enjoys, until the nation comes up with an economically rational and sustainable nuclear waste solution, the promise of a nuclear renaissance will not be fulfilled. To take advantage of this opportunity, the commission should:

    Look at All Options for Waste Disposal, Including Geologic Storage. Unfortunately, anti-Yucca Mountain political pressure has plagued the nation’s nuclear waste disposal program nearly since its inception. Indeed, it is largely this political pressure that has brought about the need for the commission to begin with. At a minimum, if the panel deems geologic storage important, it should be permitted to say so, and if it deems Yucca the most appropriate place to do it, it should explain why. This should include specific consideration of why Yucca may or may not be feasible for reasons other than technical ones. If, however, the commission is not allowed to even look at geologic storage generally or Yucca Mountain specifically, its findings will be tainted from the beginning.

    Recommend How to Specifically Resolve the Yucca Mountain Impasse. The commission should first make a technical and scientific conclusion about Yucca Mountain’s viability based on the data available. If it determines that Yucca is not technically viable, then it should simply defend that conclusion. However, if the commission concludes that it is viable and still determines that Yucca Mountain is not fit for nuclear waste disposal, then it should also state why that site should not be part of a comprehensive national nuclear waste disposition strategy and put forth a detailed recommendation on how to disengage from the program, including how to repay to ratepayers the $8 billion in sunk costs.

    Refrain from Recommending Specific Technological Solutions. The commission’s mandate should not be to determine what technology should be employed to carry out any specific function. Nuclear operators should be responsible for these decisions, because they have the greatest interests in developing a workable solution. Ultimately, their ability to operate reactors depends on having a long-term waste management strategy. Dictating such outcomes would limit the nation’s future options, be anti-competitive, and stifle future innovation. Instead, the commission should investigate a broad range of technological solutions, the timeframes in which they could be viable, and what regulatory structures would have to be in place to support their development.

    Focus on Systems, Regimes, Responsibilities, and Approaches. The commission’s primary objective should be to identify options for who should be responsible for waste management, alternative financing options, and bureaucratic reforms. These options should include:

    • How to improve the current approach, in which the government retains responsibility for waste management;
    • How the government and private sector might share responsibility for waste management; and
    • How full responsibility for waste management could be transferred to the private sector.

    For each approach, the commission should identify pros and cons, obstacles to success, and regulatory reforms that would be needed to carry out that approach. Being mandated to consider multiple options will force the commission to think about alternatives that might otherwise be ignored. It will also prevent entrenched or influential interests whose agenda might be served by one approach from taking over the process.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    One Response to President’s Commission on Nuclear Waste Has Historic Opportunity

    1. gonzedo TX says:

      Jack Spencer,

      THE " NUCLEAR BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION" TURNED OUT TO BE SHAM. WHAT A SHAME!

      Department Of Energy (DOE) Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu is, and has been, asleep at the switch since his appointment. He has truly turned out a Dis-Appointment, and should be replaced as soon as possible(ASAP). His apparent laissez-faire management prompted Pres. Obama last Feb 2010 to Direct Dr. Chu to appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to seek solution(s) to Nuclear waste disposal, as well as the best technology to generate energy. The way The White House Directive was worded could surely be understood by a Nobel Lauretate in Science as an order to seek nuclear waste disposal, and better energy sources (such as Thorium U232), Thorium has the potential to be an answer to both waste disposal, and power generation, while eliminating Nuclear Weapons Grade Uranium creation. WHAT PRES. OBAMA ASKED FOR, IS NOT WHAT HE GOT. This alone should have raised eyebrows, but so far, no comment from the White House either.

      Secretary Chu proceeded to appoint a 15 member Blue Ribbon Commission answerable directly to him, or his designees; Further the Commission's charter shows a tightly supervised Commission which may only meet twice a year, and then for a couple of days. He also appointed several "Deputy Dogs" to look only in the direction he seeks, and no other: TO PROMOTE THE INTERESTS OF THE URANIUM NUCLEAR CARTEL in the U.S., and by ente, the interests of foreign countries which seek to monopolize our nuclear generating industry with patented technology and even Uranium fuel rods. GE Hitachi, and GE Toshiba have recently consorted to manipulate the world’s uranium Nuke industry. Note that Secretary Chu has promoted the issuance of a much greater (by several Billion U.S. Dollars) of Loan Guarantees to U.S. Nuke Planners. Secretary Chu seems financially interested in this industry, and no other. A good indicator for those looking for corruption in High, High Places.

      The White House Memo specifically requested: “This review should include an evaluation of advanced fuel cycle technologies that would optimize energy recovery, resource utilization, and the minimization of materials derived from nuclear activities in a manner consistent with U.S. nonproliferation goals (THIS BESPEAKS : LOOK INTO THORIUM TECHNOLOGY)…The Commission's business should be conducted in an open and transparent manner.” Well… The Commission met on 25 and 26 Mar 2010; yet nothing has been reported about its deliberations, or even when the next meeting will be held

      Some of us had placed a high expectation on the White House Directive to DOE, But it seems Dr. Steven Chu does not seem to get the message, or worse yet, seeks to ignore it. JUST ASK THE MEMBERS OF THE BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION – A colossal waste of time for our country; at a time when we can least afford it. Dr Steven Chu should be replaced as DOE Secretary – ASAP

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