High level radio-active nuclear waste is piling up in temporary containers at more than 130 sites in 39 states. Not good. Congress enacted the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to solve the problem by shifting the waste to a single remote site that could be more safely managed for the thousands of years needed until the radioactivity declines to safe levels. Several times, several administrations have designated deep underground storage beneath Yucca mountain in Nevada as the solution, and preliminary site preparation has been underway for years. On January 10, 2002 Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham reiterated that decision after personally inspecting the site. Pres. Bush is expected to agree and make a recommendation to Congress, and the governor and legislature of Nevada are expected to respectfully disagree, again. Not to mention a chorus of understandable loud irate responses by environmentalists.
Behind the recommendation are the Chamber of Commerce and the Edison Electric Institute, the association of investor-owned utilities. DOE estimates that prompt approval from Congress could enable it to submit the necessary license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2003, allowing construction to start in 2006, and storage operations to commence in 2010. But, don’t hold your breath.
The General Accounting Office estimated that regulatory approval could take years and go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before Nevada exhausts all its opposition options. The Environmental Protection Agency also has a say in the matter of groundwater and other potential contamination standards applied to the Yucca mountain site. Opponents point to underground earthquake faults at the site, potential water pollution, and hazards of interstate transportation of radio-active materials. In making his recommendation, Sec. Abraham made four central points, 1) national security requires a central storage facility for nuclear waste, both commercial and military, 2) energy security requires a safe facility to permit continued use of nuclear power that generates about 20 percent of all U.S. electricity, 3) public safety makes the use of a central facility necessary to replace the 130 cites presently near population centers, ( no doubt international terrorists know where they are) and 4) environmental protection will be enhanced by using a single facility. If you know of a better option, maybe you could contact your elected representatives.
Continue >> Part 4) Energy Management in the Boardroom