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  • NRC Commissioner Takes a Stand on Obama’s Yucca Decision

    Dale Klein, Commissioner and former chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) challenged the premise on which President Obama based his move to withdraw the application to permit the geologic repository at Yucca Mountain. At a conference in Bethesda, Maryland yesterday Commissioner Klein emphasized that it was politics, not science, which led to this decision. Klein said,

    Frankly, I would have preferred the White House to plainly say that it was implementing a policy change. The president has the right and responsibility to set policy, and clearly, an issue of national importance and complexity such as this needs to be periodically revisited. However, in my opinion, the administration’s stated rationale for changing course does not seem to rest on factual findings and thus does not bolster the credibility of our government to handle this matter competently.”

    Those who would distort the science of Yucca Mountain for political purposes should be reminded that it was a year ago today that the president issued his memorandum on scientific integrity, in which he stated that ‘The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions.’

    I honestly cannot say if Yucca Mountain could ever meet the stringent tests that would allow it to be licensed. But I do know that, under the law, that licensing determination — and the technical evaluation of the science — is the NRC’s responsibility.”

    In a testimony last week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu asserted, “As these things go on, you are beginning to think, ‘Are you pouring good money after bad?

    That may be the case but we’ll never know if the NRC is unable to fill its obligations to determine Yucca’s viability. No scientific or technological justification was given for pulling Yucca off the table as a possible solution. In fact, a 2006 U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works report argues just the opposite: the repository is safe and technologically sound. Secretary Chu’s Blue Ribbon Commission to answer the question of what to do with America’s waste should not exclude Yucca Mountain as a potential solution.

    It’s certainly possible Yucca Mountain is not the answer, but that decision should be left to the NRC, not President Obama and the Department of Energy. Research Fellow Jack Spencer points out that “Nothing in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act authorizes the President or the Secretary of Energy to stop this process. Besides, given that a geologic repository will eventually be needed, the application process will provide the NRC, DOE, and the nuclear industry valuable information to inform future decision-making.”

    President Obama’s decision on Yucca Mountain could have long-standing implications for the future of nuclear energy in the United States. Commissioner Klein should be applauded for stated what many believe to be true. Those who like to portray themselves as pro-nuclear should follow his lead and demand that the Administration allow the NRC to continue its review of the Yucca application so that the science can be settled once and for all.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    21 Responses to NRC Commissioner Takes a Stand on Obama’s Yucca Decision

    1. John B. San Diego says:

      Did any rational mind believe Obama would encourage nuclear energy?

      The loan guarantee promises were traps that no sane investment group considered, without clear paths forward on profitability, lawsuits and waste disposal… I'll guarantee one thing if Obama throws you a bone…run the other way.

      Do we have to wait until 2012 to get rid of this guy?

    2. Bruce Breslow says:

      The 14 parties to the license application had 299 legal, safety and environmental scientific arguments that the Yucca license application was seriously flawed. That's the number of contentions the NRC's Construction Authorization Board allowed to be litigated during the licensing process. Your comments that they project is deemed perfectly safe are absurd. No legal finding have determined the projects safety at this point. If Yucca Mountain was geologically sound, the Department of Energy would not have had to try and engineer a solution involving the installation one hundred years from now of 11,500 titanium drip shields to make the project safer.

    3. Jeanne Stotler,Woodb says:

      John B. We might not have to wait if we could get records opened under the FOI act, he's hiding something or they would have been opened before now.

    4. Drew Page, IL says:

      There is only one reason Mr. Obama agreed to forebid nuclear waste from being shipped to Yucca Mountain. That's because Yucca Mountain resides in the same state as Mr. Obama's Senate leader, Harry Reid, who promised Nevada residents "not in my backyard".

    5. Lester Luehring says:

      Gee, I wonder if the opposition to the Yucca mountain repository could have anything to do with the fact that NRC Chairman, Jaczko used to be Harry Reid's science policy advisor. Washington is full of people who have "conflicts of insterest." Again, the public pays the price of these fools.

    6. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      It may well be that we will be throwing good money after bad if Yucca Mountain is found to be unsafe for storing nuclear waste, but let the scientists and engineers finish reviewing the viability of the project. As Mr. Loris said, the knowledge gained will be invaluable later in establishing a safe depository. As an aside, this Administration's spending priorities amount to little more than throwing good money after bad. Where are we, Stimulus 3, and counting?

    7. Ed W, TN says:

      Excellent comments by N. Loris. While I haven't always liked the NRC answers to questions over my 40+ years in the industry, I have learned to greatly respect their processes and rationale in outcomes that yield a bottom line safety answer. They have earned a strong reputation within government as a body that respects intellectual honesty and frankness and utilizes technical skills to complement business and political influences to reach decisions that fairly balance public and private interests. Letting them finish the job they have finally be asked to do with the Yucca application is the only responsibe action in the public interest. Let those chips fall where they may so as a nation we have a confident basis to move forward.

    8. Bill Nicholson K.C.K says:

      Give the guy a chance to further m.o.x. tehnology and 4th gen reactors of the burner type, to recycle this waste and reduce storage.

    9. Richard, ID says:

      Last I checked we had several National Academies that are presumably independent and can answer the question better than a President with no technical or scientific background who is beholden to our Nevada Senator, advised by the Nevada's Senator former policy advisor and presuming to know more on the subject than a Nobel Laureate that runs the department charged with the solution. THIS is what happens when there is NO science or energy policy that transcends administrations. Energy is ubiquitous and as such strategic decisions about where we are headed and how have GOT TO transcend administrations. The present course is purely political and, frankly, transparent. If the French can figure it out then why can't we. Stop referring to it as waste to begin with. It is anything but that!!!!

    10. Gayle C, San Antonio says:

      This administration proves once again that it thinks the general public is stupid.

      Anyone who has followed the nuclear industry knows that, for years, Yucca Mountain has been (and would continue to go) through a very rigorous process to determine its feasibility. A very expensive process too. However, it was a process based on engineering analysis and detailed design evaluation. Then poof, this new President decides it is not technologically sound after just a few months! So much political hogwash!

      And I guess the general public IS stupid. Look who WE elected for President!

    11. Ed Cavey, Michigan says:

      I am very impressed by Mr. Kleins fortitude and bravery. Those who serve at the pleasure of the President all too often parrot the opinions of the administration even though they personally believe differently.

      The DOE has spent far too much time and far too much of the taxpayers money preparing Yucca Mtn to be the federally-mandated nuclear waste repository. Remember – this began in the mid-1980's when the decision was made that the federal government was the only entity which could be trusted to take care of such an important issue (high level nuclear waste disposal). Funding was begun by forcing utilities to charge their customers a few dollars more and funnelling that money to the government. Many tens of billions have been collected for this project. It is abundantly clear that the cancellation of this project was a political decision – a "gift" to Sen. Reid. Whichever side of the aisle you are on – as a taxpayer you should be angry about this.

    12. Bubba Berry Celebrat says:

      This was certainly a political move that affects much more than just the Nuclear Industry. It will affect policy decisions for years to come to become resistant to foreign influence through oil. The state of Nevada did not mind when they were getting tax dollars and many hours of employment through the effots of utilities paying cash into the Waste fund, but now they seem to have a change of heart. I believe the Federal Govt. should be held accountable to pay all monies back and address the issue if they go through with this motion.

    13. Ben C. Ann Arbor, MI says:

      Bruce Breslow – please direct us to the 299 issues you have listed as being the reasons safety is absurd. Perhaps your office will post the sources for fellow HF readers to pursue given my Google search lists you as the Executive Director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. Thank you

    14. Sam, WI says:

      I think Obama made his decision regarding Yucca Mountain after only a few days or maybe just hours. From what I understand he signed the executive order to close about the same time he signed the executive order to close Guantanamo.

    15. Robert Nickolson, We says:

      The project at Yucca Mt. was started several years ago. Are we to believe that a bunch of morons put it together and said lets' dig a hole here to put our nuclear waste. We have to store our waste somewhere, until we can find away to get rid of it. I do believe that in the past year this administration has used the Executive Office in ways not intended by, Our Fore Fathers or the Constitution. This may very well be another instance. I say let the regulatory commission in charge of nuclear waste do their job with out interference. Isn't that what they are paid for, I might add by our tax dollars.

    16. Rafael, Nevada says:

      Bruce Breslow (March 10 comment) runs the NV state agency that dessiminates "unbiased" info regarding the "dangers" of the Yucca Mountain Project. Bruce, time to get a REAL job like maybe something that requires a REAL skill other than a b-kissing and political connections.

    17. John, Colorado says:

      I agree with this guy. However, the material called "Brown's Gas", a form of electrolytically-derived hydrogen, reportedly neutralized radioactivity, so if that is being ignored, so should the NRC.

    18. Bill E., Arkansas says:

      The fact that Yucca mountain is a political football has outweighed technical arguments since Day 1. What is lost in the conversation is the simple truth that Yucca need not be the end-all for commercial spent fuel except for some very small amounts of long lived waste products from reprocessing and MOX streams. We should use existing federal facilities as interim spent fuel storage sites, paid for in part by the elimination of larger ISFSI expansions at operating reactors, and begin the design and construction of Gen IV facilities that will burn reprocessed waste. A simple step into the early statges of hydrogen production through dual use of high temperature reactors is an elegant solution to the high level waste dilemna. DOE had the opportunity to take a first step in this direction with slight modifications of GNEP a few years ago and blew it.

    19. merrelly, Findlay OH says:

      Is there too much weight/mass to send this NE waste to the sun?

    20. Susanne E. Vandenbos says:

      Although I am concerned about seismicity, volcanism and water infiltration at the Yucca Mountain site I feel that licensing of should go forward to get a second opinion about these and other concerns. The reason given for the license withdrawal "it is not workable" is simply too weak and out of line with the promise of President Obama that his decisions would be based on science.

    21. Susanne E. Vandenbos says:

      The reason given for withdrawal of the Yucca Mountain repository license application "not workable" is not consistent with the promise of President Obama that his decisions would be based on science.

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