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Congressmen Pushing To Reopen Yucca Mountain 212

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-all-your-one-stop-mutant-making-needs dept.
Bob the Super Hamste writes "CNN is reporting that a group of congressmen backed by the nuclear industry are pushing to reopen the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. The site has sat closed and uncompleted since the Obama administration scrapped the project. The article goes into the pros and cons of the Yucca Mountain site for storage and also brings up some interesting political issues involved in continuing development. It's also worth noting that there's been a fee on electric bills since 1983 for the building of the site."
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Congressmen Pushing To Reopen Yucca Mountain

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  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbean (222522) on Monday July 11, 2011 @04:08PM (#36725778)
    About time. We are fussing about whether this will be safe after 10,000 years and meanwhile we store the waste in overcrowded pools spread around the country and continue to burn coal, which is an environmental disaster all by itself, never mind what it does to the climate.
    • Re:About time (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 11, 2011 @04:13PM (#36725838)
      And, as a bonus, if they start reprocessing the waste (and overturn Carter's executive order which outlawed the process), there will be enough storage in Yucca Mountain to store all the waste that will ever be made, until it's cooled, since most of the waste, by volume and mass, is just more fuel, and what IS really waste is hot enough to burn itself out on the scale of human life spans...
      • by bosef1 (208943)

        It looks like the Ford and Carter bans on nuclear waste reprocessing were overturned by Reagan. The Wikipedia page on nuclear reprocessing [wikipedia.org] has an overview of the current situation, and a link to a more in-depth summary of US reprocessing policy here (pdf) [fas.org].

        Based on a quick read, it looks like one of the big hold-ups is that while the US isn't banning fuel reprocessing, it isn't subsidising it either; but that's just from a quick read and I encourage you to do your own analysis.

        Further, reading over the Wiki

        • by socz (1057222)

          You hit the nail on its head: "it isn't subsidising it either"

          From my conversations with others and general internet reading, other countries have been reprocessing their 'spent fuel/waste' and using it over again. In some discussions the reasons for lack of space (for storage) has come up as a primary reason of why they do it. And why they don't do it here in the U.S.A. is because of cost - it's much cheaper to just set it and "forget it" than process it which costs money. It's such a shame that it has bee

          • other countries have been reprocessing

            Last time I looked there was only one France and they've had a lot of trouble with reprocessing and haven't done any for a couple of years.
            Also for some reason a lot of people have it backwards. The one and only purpose of reprocessing is to extract usable material from spent fuel rods. It is NOT a way to reduce nuclear waste, in fact it actually generates a lot of low level waste due to contamination. The fuel rods are still very intense neutron sources after all so

        • Re:About time (Score:4, Informative)

          by cdrguru (88047) on Monday July 11, 2011 @06:13PM (#36727252) Homepage

          I believe regardless of the science and actual process for reprocessing it is simply an equivalence in many politician's minds of reprocessing == proliferation. I believe the truth is that you get plutonium out as a "waste product" from straight fuel rod reprocessing but with some new formulations of fuel rods you may end up putting the plutonium back in.

          My understanding of fuel reprocessing today is that it is somewhere around 97% of a fuel rod is available for using in a new fuel rod. In other words, only 3% of the mass of a fuel rod is truely "waste" and ends up needing to be buried somewhere for a long time.

          Of course it is idiotic to be storing fuel rods which require cooling and isolation when they could be reprocessed with 97% of them being reused. But the nuclear politics are filled with idiocy.

        • by ThorGod (456163)

          If it's not subsidized, then it's only a matter of time before cost of storing (un-reprocessed) waste meets the raw cost of fuel.

          My understanding is that reprocessing generates plutonium, and that probably had/has something to do with a lack of reprocessing.

          Get the cost of fossil fuels to be more efficient (i.e. incorporate negative externalities into the price of oil), and all this immediately becomes more interesting for everyone.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      lol you are making the mistake of thinking the argument is about common sense. Its about politics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        lol you are making the mistake of thinking the argument is about common sense. Its about politics.

        It's far worse than that. It's about irrational fear on one hand and unknowledgeable hardcore anti-nuclear power fanatics on the other. How many times have we heard the anti-nuclear power crowd go on and on about there's no where to store the waste, and then when you bring up Yucca they switch to "well no you have to transport it!". What they really want to say is "Ban all nuclear power! Power everything with rainbow farts from Unicorns!"

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by rmstar (114746)

          It's far worse than that. It's about irrational fear on one hand and unknowledgeable hardcore anti-nuclear power fanatics on the other.

          Fair and balanced, heh?

          It is between irresponsible nuclear energy fanbois on one hand and political and financial/technical reality on the other hand. Nuclear is not going anywhere, and it's time for the nuclear energy advocates to stop pretending. Things don't get anymore true because you repeat them over and over. When you weight the probability of something going wrong wi

          • It's far worse than that. It's about irrational fear on one hand and unknowledgeable hardcore anti-nuclear power fanatics on the other.

            Fair and balanced, heh?

            It is between irresponsible nuclear energy fanbois on one hand and political and financial/technical reality on the other hand. Nuclear is not going anywhere, and it's time for the nuclear energy advocates to stop pretending. Things don't get anymore true because you repeat them over and over. When you weight the probability of something going wrong with the consequences it comes out that nuclear is not for most places on this planet.

            It is simply not true that coal (for example) is worse than nuclear. It might be so on a an average day, but if shit hits the fan, nuclear can recover all the distance in a single day, and then make some the next day. And given the corruption and incompetence of the nuclear industry, we'll see another blow to its image within a decade. I'd bet it will be a Thorium reactor by the chinese, who are going to fuck up as surely as the sun gets up tomorrow.

            Go ahead, claim it's impossible, so you are on the record when it does.

            "Ban all nuclear power! Power everything with rainbow farts from Unicorns!"

            How's that called. Nuclear strawman? Hahaha.

            You want me to claim that there will never be another nuclear accident? You're right, that would be silly. It will likely happen again. But here's the thing. In the 60 odd years since the first commercial nuclear power plant came online we've had what, three accidents of note in commercial plants? One of which has never been proven to have harmed a single person and the last of which the consequences are admittedly unknown. What did it take to get that final incident? Just a 9.0 earthquake and a 43 foot tsu

            • by rmstar (114746)

              What did it take to get that final incident? Just a 9.0 earthquake and a 43 foot tsunami. But yeah, totally unsafe and blow up all the time. Even the POS of Chernobyl was running fine until they started to muck about with it.

              The problem in Fukushima was loss of mains power together with generalized chaos from the monster tsunami. A sputtering cesna together with political unrest or mild underregulation of the nuclear companies can have the same effect. The monster tsunami is a nice cover, but is still a dis

        • by wmbetts (1306001)

          It's actually about Nevada residences say store your own fucking waste we don't want it.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          It's about irrational fear

          The hardcore pro-nuclear power fanatics love trotting this one out.

          Yes, theoretically nuclear can be completely safe. Unfortunately the reactors are run by companies whose primary motive is profit and by human beings who are naturally fallible.

          Accidents do happen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civilian_nuclear_accidents [wikipedia.org]

          Now, I am aware that the amount of radiation leaked from Fukushima isn't dangerous to most people in Japan, certainly not in Tokyo where I was when it happened. The damage it has done

          • by Atzanteol (99067)

            A mistake may happen! Stop all production NOW!

            It's unreasonable to believe anything will ever be completely safe. And it's counter-productive to crawl inside a hole because of it. The least we could do would be to build plants which are safer than the ones already operating and reduce the amount of pollution caused by current methods of producing electricity (or at least stop the expansion of said pollution in the future).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kamiza Ikioi (893310)

      Shhhh! You'll wake the tree huggers who only want to use biodegradable elf farts powering windmills in Denmark! Just imagine if a nuclear plant melts down! The entire world's salt supply will kill us all! [nikochan.net].

      As I've always said, solar and wind are great, where its sunny and windy. We need to stop the fantasy science and at LEAST use today's available science to solve today's problems. You wanna develop space solar panels and beam down power? Fine, we'll close the nuclear plants AFTER you get it working.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        As I've always said, solar and wind are great, where its sunny and windy

        Not this shit again. Look, we have solar thermal collectors that work 24 hours a day 365 days a year. They are perfectly adequate for producing baseline power. Plus, there are parts of the earth where sunlight is guaranteed anyway, which is why the EU wants to build plants in north Africa.

        Wind does vary, but we can store the energy and release it when needed. In fact we already do that with current nuclear and fossil generation. With storage in place you only need to look at average wind speeds and those ar

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday July 11, 2011 @04:15PM (#36725876) Homepage

    It's not perfect, but dry cask storage in Yucca Mountain is way better than rods in spent fuel pools in power plants.

    There's been worry about shipping spent fuel rods around, but the casks are very tough (they will survive being hit by a locomotive), and the worst cases are far, far less dangerous than a failed spent fuel pool at a power plant, as we now know.

    • Note that a good portion of the worry about shipping the spent fuel around is that the rails themselves actually need to be upgraded to support the weight of how the nuclear cargo needs to be shipped. The standard lines can't handle it.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        US rail needs upgraded anyway. Sound like an opportunity to improve our infrastructure and provide jobs, a great thing to do during a recession.

        • by Andy Dodd (701)

          Nothing wrong with our freight rail system - it's one of the best in the world.

          Our passenger rail system is a whole other story, but good passenger rail infrastructure and good freight rail infrastructure are completely independent.

          Yes, in our country our passenger infrastructure is heavily dependent on our freight infrastructure, which is WHY our passenger infrastructure is so bad.

          • Yes, in our country our passenger infrastructure is heavily dependent on our freight infrastructure, which is WHY our passenger infrastructure is so bad.

            WIth the average weight of Americans increasing, it could be very handy that passenger rail makes use of the freight lines.

          • by salesgeek (263995)

            I thought our passenger rail system was awful because of those airplane thingies that get you there in 1/20th the time.

      • by KenSeymour (81018)

        How does the fuel get to the plant today? What makes the waste heavier than the fuel?

        IIRC the fuel gets there by truck. If so, they can take the dry casks out by truck if there is somewhere for the trucks to go.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GooberToo (74388)

      This is yet another case of anti-nukers actually making the world a more dangerous and costly place. If the anti-nukers would just shut the fuck up and let intelligent people actually move forward, things would be way better all the way around. As is, everything is more dangerous and far, far, far more expensive than would otherwise be required if anti-nukers would simply shut the fuck up.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Well the US is one of the few countries in the world that doesn't reprocess it's nuclear waste. In fact you guys ship your plutonium to Canada so we can make nuclear fuel for reactors. Seriously? Time to kick environmentalists in the face when they fuck everything up for everyone else based on fear mongering.

      • Not at all. Texas was a more likely site but it had political pull to get out of consideration. Now Nevada has some pull. Perhaps we can let the science choose the site now. More geologically stable is better so lets look at Texas again.
  • Thorium Reactors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RudyHartmann (1032120) on Monday July 11, 2011 @04:30PM (#36726110)
    You can burn the transuranics in a Thorium reactor and extract residual energy from them. Then the hazardous waste will be negligible by comparison. Google LFTR.
    • Look, I love the LFTR as much as anybody, and have for many years, but this kind of BS doesn't help the case. The neutron budget is just over break-even in thorium reactors and it does not lend itself well to transmuting waste. Other types of reactors specially designed for the job are much better for transuranic transmutation.

      Also, the anti-proliferation features of LFTR are overstated. The LFTR produces and continuously reprocesses U-233. U-233 has been verified to work in nuclear bombs. Mostly the supp

  • by arcite (661011) on Monday July 11, 2011 @05:04PM (#36726548)
    This is the problem with the US IMO. They lack any long term planning. The political party in power at any given time is only obsessed and focused with getting themselves reelected in four years. Thus, planning is limited to FOUR YEARS. How can one run the last remaining superpower on a four year shedule? It takes 10 years to build a nuclear power plant. How long does it take to build other MEGA infrastructure projects? There are so many unemployed out there, the US should be doing like China and upgrading its ancient infrastructure and laying the groundwork for a high-tech, energy efficient 21st century. I would suggest to raise taxes, but so far that has only made banksters on wallstreet wealthier with zero economic impact. Where is the leadership?
    • by magarity (164372)

      Thus, planning is limited to FOUR YEARS. How can one run the last remaining superpower on a four year shedule?

      The Chinese are rapidly overtaking with their five year plans. I therefore recommend that the main US election cycle become every 6 years with legislative elections every 3.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      The political party in power at any given time is only obsessed and focused with getting themselves reelected in four years. Thus, planning is limited to FOUR YEARS. How can one run the last remaining superpower on a four year shedule? It takes 10 years to build a nuclear power plant. How long does it take to build other MEGA infrastructure projects?

      By extension, when one party does plan ahead and start building Nuclear/Solar/Foo plants, after four years, the new party in power comes along to halt construction because it's not their baby.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Monday July 11, 2011 @05:09PM (#36726608) Homepage

    I remember working on some of the Yucca Mountain studies years ago and there really isn't a better place you could store nuclear waste. It's very stable geologically, and the storage medium leeching was practically non-existent, even if you stored the blocks under water.

    Most of the objections are NIMBY related and don't represent any realistic threat.

    I can promise you where nuclear waste is being stored now, where ever that is, is a lot less safe than it would be at Yucca Mountain.

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday July 11, 2011 @05:19PM (#36726722)

      I can promise you where nuclear waste is being stored now, where ever that is, is a lot less safe than it would be at Yucca Mountain.

      But that's exactly why the anti-nuclear nutters oppose it; they love nuclear accidents because it helps them campaign to end nuclear power... the last things they want are safe reactors and safe waste disposal.

      • by ThorGod (456163)

        But that's exactly why the anti-nuclear nutters oppose it; they love nuclear accidents because it helps them campaign to end nuclear power... the last things they want are safe reactors and safe waste disposal.

        Good point! Protestors lack the proper incentives or, at least, impetus to inform their own opinions.

      • by jbeaupre (752124)

        I refer to these sort of tactics as bunghole politics. The idea is to stop up the system so that it has to be shut down. Named after the following joke:

        The brain said "I do all the thinking so I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

        The eyes said "I see everything and let the rest of you know where we are, so I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

        The hands said: "Without me we wouldn't be able to pick anything up or move anything. So I'm the most important and I should be in charge."

      • To be fair, you're still assuming that a "safe" nuclear power plant is possible.

        I'm inclined to agree, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
    • Why should I believe this assurance of safety when the Nuclear Industry's track record shows they ALWAYS lie about safety and potential risks. ALWAYS.

      • I don't think they really do. Any large scale power system carries risk, but if you try to be honest about the risks people go off the rails.

        At least as far as the Yucca Mountain leeching data goes, I've seen that with my own eyes. And that was before the nuclear industry basically took over the regulatory authority. Yucca Mountain planning did take cataclysmic events into consideration, up to what would most likely be extinction events for the rest of globe anyway.

        If something really bad happened, y

        • by Thing 1 (178996)

          Any large scale power system carries risk, but if you try to be honest about the risks people go off the rails.

          Yeah, lie to me about your statistics and I'll go off the rails. Too bad there aren't more of me.

    • by TopSpin (753)

      Parent is correct. When you get past the junk science and put credible people under the spotlight Yucca Mountain is understood to be a safe long term solution. I watched the congressional testimony. The DOE had to have it beat out of them, because affirming the safety of Yucca kicks a leg out from under the Administration's policy. NRC scientists affirmed the same thing. There are no technical reasons why we should not open Yucca Mountain. The only actual reason for the shutdown that anyone could cite

      • by sl3xd (111641)

        The problem with "Yucca Mountain" has nothing to do with the facility - there are shortcomings, but I'm not aware of any place that would be better.

        The problem is in the transport of the material to the facility - it affects more people, passes through densely populated areas, involves more congressional districts, and is easily the most dangerous part of the plan. The nation's nuclear failings and broken promises with the residents of the affected transit areas doesn't help either.

        It's one thing to get pas

        • Any place exposed to something that could get through those transport casks has more to worry about than just radiation. And smooth, vitrified slugs of glass buried in a single deep hole are a far cry from microscopic dust dispersed in the atmosphere over hundreds of miles. Most of the curies released into the environment have been from coal, not nuclear, and released in a way that is far more hazardous to health.

    • by sl3xd (111641)

      Hate to tell you this, but the problem isn't really NIMBY - it's about several states being forced into something that's very much against their interests, and in a way that can potentially depopulate whole cities. The waste storage itself isn't the largest problem; the site can be secured relatively easily, and is safer than in the spent fuel pools at our nation's nuclear plants.

      The problem lies outside Yucca Mountain: It's partly in safety, and mostly in politics.

      The issue is that large, populous states,

      • by imunfair (877689)

        It isn't NIMBY, yet the things you named are all NIMBY fears for Nevada. From the perspective of someone that doesn't live in any of the prospective states I think Nevada is a much better choice. We've already contaminated the underground area near there with no wide-scale radiation issues, so even with leaks it seems promising that most of the country would not be affected.

        Kamps said better sites for a repository include deep granite formations in places like New Hampshire, Wisconsin or Minnesota

        So instead of sticking it in a low population desert we should stick it in a hole near the source of one of our biggest rivers (one t

        • by sl3xd (111641)

          Kamps said better sites for a repository include deep granite formations in places like New Hampshire, Wisconsin or Minnesota

          I never mentioned any of the other proposed sites; so it must be a bit of cross-posting. Honestly, Yucca is the most logical choice for a central repository. And I do live in an affected area. I also believe that it makes far more sense for dry cask storage on-site than to transport it across the country to the central repository.

          However, all governments need to take into account the human element, and political capital. To be honest, anything with nuclear waste disposal in the area is seen as a callous vot

      • >Nevada (and the transit states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah) have no nuclear plants. Why should they pay nearly all of the penalties, and enjoy none of the benefits?

        Sorry.. You lost me right there... You do know that the first peaceful nuclear reactor in the us was in idaho, right? (idaho national labratory) and tons of other reactors? there is a GIANT reservation there for nuclear stuff. (and is the location of one of the very, very few nuclear incidents) If I remember right, the navy even trains there for their 'mop and glo's' for part of their training.

        Do you realize how many nuclear weapons are sitting in Colorado and Wyoming? most of our ICBM's are located in t

        • by sl3xd (111641)

          >Nevada (and the transit states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah) have no nuclear plants. Why should they pay nearly all of the penalties, and enjoy none of the benefits?

          Sorry.. You lost me right there... You do know that the first peaceful nuclear reactor in the us was in idaho, right? (idaho national labratory) and tons of other reactors? there is a GIANT reservation there for nuclear stuff. (and is the location of one of the very, very few nuclear incidents) If I remember right, the navy even trains there for their 'mop and glo's' for part of their training.

          The only nuclear plants in Idaho are research reactors. There are no commercial power plants, and never have been. There was a plant intended for nuclear fuel reprocessing, but it was never put into use after congress outlawed processing of nuclear fuel (see a trend here? - no nuclear material gets transported.) There's a HUGE difference in scale between a commercial plant and a research reactor. Heck, the University of Utah has a small reactor - but just because it's a reactor doesn't make it dangerous -

  • by Marrow (195242) on Monday July 11, 2011 @05:39PM (#36726948)

    the price? I suspect the biggest problem with Yucca is that we are ignoring the lost revenue of building another one. And the guys in charge would really love to be able to steer another bazillion dollars to their favorite contractors. Very generous contractors.

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      huh? I see your line of reasoning, but it's more likely the very isolated nature of YMP hurt it. See, the hardest to kill government project is the one that 'resides' in as many representatives districts as possible.

      Having said that, storing and managing nuclear waste is the very thing I want my government worrying/managing. Do you really think Walmart, GE, or BP has any incentive to properly manage nuclear waste? You've got to be kidding me!

      • I don't want anything privatized. I want them to use the facility they already built. If it is totally unfit for that use, then I want the money raked back from every contractor that we spent it on. Which will never happen. If they start from scratch, they get to spend all that money -again-. And the skimming will go on and on and on. Note: This is a nuclear facility. Lots of security. Which means blacked-out costs and expenditures and a perfect place to hide graft and corruption. Its

        • by ThorGod (456163)

          Right, so place a marginal tax on gas that goes directly to an EPA funded environmental rehabilitation (cleaning) program. (Good luck passing that with who we've got in the Congress.)

          PS Last time I heard what that marginal tax *should* be, just to properly cover the external costs of burning a gallon of gas, $12 would need to be added to every barrel of gas sold. Can YOU imagine paying $15 for a gallon of gas?

    • No, the biggest problem with Yucca Mountain is Harry Reid. He doesn't want it opened, and he has a high enough position in congress to make sure it does not. Here is his statement [senate.gov], saying how proud he is that it was finally shut down.

      Currently he is trying to find an alternative use for Yucca Mountain, in order to make it even harder to open again once he leaves office.
      • by sl3xd (111641)

        I’m a big proponent of nuclear energy- it's a necessary cornerstone to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I think the best thing we can do is build modern reactors that can use the nuclear 'waste' as fuel, and burn it down to isotopes that decay in a few human generations. However, I'm not ignorant about the tragic failure of government that is the primary cause for the opposition to Yucca Mountain, and am keenly aware that there is no political capital left to spend - and why.

        Trying to pin the "problem

        • I'm not trying to blame Harry Reid or pin it on anyone. I am merely pointing out the fact that without Harry Reid, all the rest wouldn't have the power and capability to prevent the US from going forward with storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain. Like it or not, that's the reality of the situation.
          • by sl3xd (111641)

            I'm not trying to blame Harry Reid or pin it on anyone. I am merely pointing out the fact that without Harry Reid, all the rest wouldn't have the power and capability to prevent the US from going forward with storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain. Like it or not, that's the reality of the situation.

            There are other powerful senators (such as Orrin Hatch of DCMA infamy) in neighboring states who are no less passionate about refusing nuclear waste.

            Believe me: It's not just Nevada that fought Yucca Mountain. Utah also has a licensed nuclear waste disposal site - one that slipped past all congressional review because of a loophole in laws surrounding indian reservations; the company that instigated has had to run a massive PR campaign just to keep people from being violent to their employees. The surround

  • I'm saddened by the lack of interest this generated. I hope this is more a reflection of /. readers being too busy working to read and comment...

    Why? Because nuclear waste and nuclear power are entirely under appreciated by the lay public.
    -Nuclear power is one of the few, mature alternatives to fossil fuels.
    -It's also pretty clean. (It'd be even more clean if the YMP was in full-swing).
    -Somehow any nuclear accident gets blown completely out of proportion by the media (and therefore the public) while any

  • by waddgodd (34934) on Monday July 11, 2011 @06:55PM (#36727674) Homepage Journal

    It's going nowhere, Reid is still Majority Leader, it's in his state, and he's still against it. Lotta political smoke, not much fire.

  • Instead, we should be working on a new small power plants that can burn the 'waste', and then bury what remains. The fact is, that there is loads of energy left (hence the long half-life). So, if we burn it up via IFR or some other process, then we need just a little storage site. In addition, if the reactors are designed small, they can be manufactured and shipped to the site, loaded with the 'waste', and then simply burn it for the next 50-100 years.
  • Everyone here is neglecting one of the #1 reasons this project was scrapped. Nevada is being dumped with the nuclear waste of all the other states. Nevada doesn't even have a nuclear power plant. United States against One.
  • ya know the senate majority leader who happens to be from nevada.

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