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United States Politics

How Yucca Mountain Was Killed 340

Posted by timothy
from the actually-the-mountain's-doing-just-fine dept.
ATKeiper writes "The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, which was selected by the U.S. government in the 1980s to be the nation's permanent facility for storing nuclear waste, is essentially dead. A new article in The New Atlantis explains how the project was killed: 'In the end, the Obama administration succeeded, by a combination of legal authority and bureaucratic will, in blocking Congress's plan for the Yucca Mountain repository — certainly for the foreseeable future, and perhaps permanently.... The saga of Yucca Mountain's creation and apparent demise, and of the seeming inability of the courts to prevent the Obama administration from unilaterally nullifying the decades-old statutory framework for Yucca, illustrates how energy infrastructure is uniquely subject to the control of the executive branch, and so to the influence of presidential politics.' A report from the Government Accountability Office notes that the termination 'essentially restarts a time-consuming and costly process [that] has already cost nearly $15 billion through 2009.'"
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How Yucca Mountain Was Killed

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  • by aurispector (530273) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:16PM (#42209427)

    end of story

  • by Sabalon (1684) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:21PM (#42209487)

    That's the biggest problems with shifts in power, especially if parties change every four years. One party spends four years getting something in place, or sets some long term goals, and then next election someone else comes in and changes it all. So they spend all the time and money getting one thing spun up and then it gets canned and they spend the next four years doing something else and it may be canned.

    Gotta be a better way.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:39PM (#42209741) Homepage Journal

    Wind doesn't kill loads of migrating birds. It slices and dices a few hawks but that's about it. The 1.5 megawatt turbines move slow enough birds are usually out of the way of the blades. Most slice 'n dice jobs are the older, smaller turbines.

    Further, it lends well to dual purpose land-use, the Shiloh II Wind Farm, Solano County, California, is grazing land so there's no lost land use.

  • Re:So what (Score:5, Informative)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:41PM (#42209765) Journal

    ...so how much of that cost was in fending off lawsuits, and putting up with bucketloads of other legal (and not-so-legal) obstruction?

    Seriously - they were working on this thing 20+ years ago. Most of the time it was held up, off and on, due to lawsuits, protests, demands for still more environmental impact statements...

    Shit, I wouldn't be surprised if at least $5bn of the total cost-to-date wasn't spent in legal fees, money paid to contractors (and their employees) who were forced to sit idle while awaiting the outcome of an injunction, and various other BS shenanigans.

  • by Omega Hacker (6676) <omega@[ ]gacs.net ['ome' in gap]> on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:00PM (#42209967)

    Old vaults of waste have been found to be developing cracks and been reinforced.

    It's faaaaar worse than that. One of our borehole geophones came back from a job at Hanford with the 1/2" thick aluminium tube so eaten away that it had to be replaced. That would be 100's of meters down a hole (I think they had a 500m cable...).

  • I call shenanigans (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shoten (260439) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:10PM (#42210071)

    Obama isn't to blame for this. The OP ignores the fact that the Yucca project has been in trouble long before Obama was on the political landscape. Use of it was initially blocked before anyone even knew who Obama was. Penn and Teller did an episode of Bullshit! called "Nukes, Hybrids and Lesbians" which called out all years of different tactics that were blocking the use of the site for its intended purpose. That episode aired in 2007, one year before Obama was even elected into office. Penn and Teller pointed to all kinds of NIMBY groups and the complaints they put forth over the years...like the fact that nobody had tested to see how well the site would do in a flood. (Mind you, it's a mountain...in the middle of a desert.) Did it become official on Obama's watch? Sure. But the funeral isn't where the murder took place. Yucca was dead long before now.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:57PM (#42211115) Journal
    Not all the waste is spent fuel. There's lots of contaminated metal and clothing, concrete, fuel bundle housings, etc. There's a lot of stuff that you can't shove into a reactor, no matter how fast it breeds.
  • Re:So what (Score:5, Informative)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:44PM (#42211921)

    Jordan lake's dam broke (as has happened to other dams in NC recently), could all that water could flood the Sharon Harris plant?

    No Jordan Lake is on a different basin. Geography prevents Jordan Lake from posing any threat. Well, thats not entirely true, its possible that a flood could cause the outflow from Jordan to spill over into Sharron Harris, but at that point, the East coast is going to be under a few hundred feet of water.

    Second, no Corp of Engineer dams have broken in the history of the US, so lets not be retarded shall we? Comparing some dams at mill sites that were just piled high with dirt as needed to a Corp of Engineer flood control lake is rather retarded.

    You're referring to Hope Mills dam, which is remnant of an old factory dam for powering a mill, not an engineered lake. Both times the dam at hope mills 'burst', it was 'bad' and they evacuated some people but there was no reported damage. The second time it just drained uncontrollably but at a rather safe rate as they were already lowing it to make repairs. You're talking about a large pond, not a real lake.

  • Would you bury gold? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @12:24AM (#42212475)

    Um, spent nuclear fuel is not waste. It is actually more fissionable material. Only an idiot would bury it. The french reprocess their nuclear fuel because they are sane, since Jimmy Carter we have been on the other side of the spectrum. When you separate the actinides from the rest you actually will have something that will decay below natural uranium in radioactivity in a relatively short period of time, say 400 years or so. We should use the money to build liquid chlorine fast reactors and burn up the spent fuel to make energy, not bury something worth more then gold per ounce into the ground. Fissionable fuel has this wonderful property that it makes more fuel, it truly has the Midas touch. A light water reactor only burns around a few percent, leaving around 98% of the energy in the fuel. Of course the neutron damage to a solid fuel element means we have to completely remake the thing before we can use it, and all the short half life isotopes mean you have to do it robotically. With a liquid fueled solution like a molten salt reactor you can continuously reprocess the fuel and use extremely high percentages of the fuel.

    I never understood what people have against reprocessing. The plutonium from a reactor is pretty much worthless for making bombs. It is not P-239, but usually has multiple more neutrons and is not desirable if you want to make a bomb. I suppose they are afraid that the infrastructure could be re-purposed, but reactor grade plutonium is super crappy for making bombs. I suppose people aren't rational about nukes, so I shouldn't be surprised.

  • by deimtee (762122) on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:08AM (#42213333) Journal
    Your figures are off by a factor of 1000. Tera versus Giga maybe?. From wikipedia :
    Last available year on wikipedia 2009:
    USA = 3,741,000,000 MwHr /Yr
    = 3741 TwHr /Yr

    Which is : 3741 TwHr/yr / ( 5 KwHr/m2/day x 365 d/yr)
    = 2049863000 m2
    = 2050 square km

    0r an area about 20 by 40 miles for the metrically challenged.
    Still feasible, but a lot bigger.
  • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:30AM (#42214733) Journal

    Hanford made (and separated) Plutonium. In order to do that, they had to use some pretty nasty solvents that made highly radioactive liquid solution that then went into underground lined tanks.

    Shockingly, 50 years later, those tanks are degrading, and still have highly radioactive liquid solution in them, yards away from the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, with major metro areas downstream.

    But we don't need a place to vitrify this shit and store it in a sane manner. We can just leave it in eastern Washington State, and shove our head into the sand right next to these single-walled 60-year old metal tanks storing some of the most heinous material ever created by man!

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