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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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  • end of story

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:26PM (#42209553) Journal

      Pretty much, yeah. When you're one of the big guys in the prez' coterie, you get what you want, and Reid (D, NV) got what he wanted. ...of course, we still have to figure out where to put all the $#@%^! nuclear waste, but you know, at least Reid got what he wanted.

      I propose we bury it in LA County, specifically Hollywood - earthquakes be damned.

      • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:17PM (#42210131)

        Pretty much, yeah. When you're one of the big guys in the prez' coterie, you get what you want, and Reid (D, NV) got what he wanted. ...of course, we still have to figure out where to put all the $#@%^! nuclear waste, but you know, at least Reid got what he wanted.

        I propose we bury it in LA County, specifically Hollywood - earthquakes be damned.

        The combination of the new nuclear waste and the human waste already stored there could form a singularity.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Best part ... it would have brought money and jobs to Nevada, a place that has only 2 reasons to exist. Vegas and the Military/Nuclear testing ...

        Surprised he hasn't started his campaign against gambling too

      • 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 ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:32PM (#42209663) Homepage Journal

      end of story

      Blame him if you like, but it's most of the NIMBYs. For years the Dept of Energy performed nuclear tests in the Nevada desert, pockmarking the landscape [google.com]. Now traces of radiation have been found in ground water hundreds of miles from the sites, due to the nature of faults in the Basin and Ridge region and movement of underground water. Tends to scare people and they tend to make their will known to their representatives in the capitol.

      Meanwhile, the Hanford site is in dire need (and has been) of shutting down, with no new disposal location in sight. A friend worked at Hanford for a couple years and explained to me how it was never meant to house as much waste as it does and the long-term storage wasn't in the original plans. Old vaults of waste have been found to be developing cracks and been reinforced.

      • by Omega Hacker (6676) <omega.omegacs@net> 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'm curious, what would eat away the aluminum?
          • by Rich0 (548339) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:42PM (#42211457) Homepage

            Probably an acid of some sort.

            The waste at those sites is not merely nuclear waste.

            I knew somebody who had some connection to one of those sites, and he gave an interesting presentation on the mess that is left. Poor records were kept, so nobody really knows what is in those underground tanks. All kinds of stuff was dumped into tanks with little regard for compatibility. The mixtures in the tanks are not homogenous, which means that over time you get stuff happening as things mix and diffuse, and you can get buildups of stuff like hydrogen which of course can threaten to blow the whole tank up (talk about a mess with all that radioactive waste mixed in).

            I have no doubt that a concerted effort could clean up the mess, but nobody wants to deal with it - let it blow up on somebody else's watch (I'm sure there is significant risk of an environmental disaster if the site is disturbed to try to remediate it, and what administration wants that on their watch?).

            Just as with Yucca Mountain - the status quo is good enough for a few more years, and if something bad happens you could just say you were doing what everybody else did and "who could have seen that coming?" Worked for New Orleans, worked for the housing crash, will work for the next time a President keeps his head in the sand like all those before him.

          • by Macrat (638047)

            Replicators.

            You didn't think the Stargate series was fictional did you?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            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 Wa

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:54PM (#42210515)

        Nevada was selected for the Nation's dangerous nuclear activities PRECISELY because it was barren and relatively unpopulated. Having polluted it with many nuclear blasts over decades, we effectively made it even MORE appropriate that we concentrate all the waste there.

        Any civilian who moved there after the testing began in the 1940's has no right to complain; that's like moving into a house next to the airport (which you guy at a discount because of the noise) and then demanding the airport get shut down because it is depressing the value of your home

        What could possibly be WORSE than putting all the waste into a single multi-billion dollar containment facility (designed by the nation's top scientists in the field) where it can be guarded and monitored? Oh... let's seeee.... the OBMA PLAN: let it accumulate in various containers at power plants and medical facilities all over the country with dubious monitoring/guarding.

        Even if we were to abandon nuclear power (not gonna happen... we will always have nuclear-powered naval vessels) we would still produce lots of nuclear waste in industry and in the medical field, so the current no-plan plan is mind-blowingly stupid and short-sighted

      • by bogjobber (880402) on Friday December 07, 2012 @03:13AM (#42213167)
        Exactly! I am a full-on proponent of nuclear energy, and I think a site *like* Yucca Mtn. is necessary for our country. As someone who was raised in rural Nevada, though, I think that people from outside the area don't really understand what NIMBY is all about in this particular case.

        As you pointed out, the DoE performed nuclear tests for decades in the Nevada desert. That area has silently been carrying the legacy of the Cold War. People in rural areas of Nevada and Utah (and probably Arizona, too, I'm unsure) have experienced extraordinarily high cancer rates. There are several other unsavory federal sites in the region, like the plant that decommissions chemical weapons in the West Desert of Utah that have caused massive health problems for workers and area residents.

        Citizens have born that burden in silence. This is an area of the country that is extremely patriotic, in a very old-fashioned sense. They sacrificed, quite literally, their lives and the lives of their children in order to help the military progress of our country. We, and our environment, are seen as less valuable and more expendable than other regions of the country which are equally suitable, or even more suitable for nuclear waste disposal. And that is, quite frankly, bullshit.

        Senator Reid grew up in this environment. He is fully aware of the dangers of allowing the federal government free reign to do whatever they please. The federal government has *never* answered legitimate questions about how this will effect the environment long-term, particularly groundwater contamination. They have *never* answered questions about properly securing nuclear waste traveling across the region. They just want to dump their problems on Nevada and pay some hush money in the form of pork-laden jobs. In this particular case, I think Senator Reid's efforts to block the Yucca Mtn. project are laudable. Enough is enough.
    • by sycodon (149926) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:33PM (#42209675)

      I think we should put all the waste in Reid's basement.

  • So what (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:21PM (#42209485)

    1) $15 billion is small potatoes if that's all it's cost through now, not per year. 2) This seems like a fairly iffy idea anyway for any number of reasons 3) If you're really concerned about costs, actually read the goddamned report and see (page 27) where it would cost $41-67 billion more to actually complete.

    Cutting off an iffy project that would result in many times its current cost seems like a win.

    • 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.

    • To finally solve our nuclear waste storage problem safely, I'd pay my share of that $67B. What we do now is the dumbest possible plan: keep all nuclear waste in short-term storage pools throughout the country. These various waste pools invite terrorist attacks, and any one of them could go Chernobyl on us if nothing worse happens than the water pumps fail. Just guessing, but if during heavy rains and flooding, Jordan lake's dam broke (as has happened to other dams in NC recently), could all that water co

      • 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.

        • It's seriously nice to hear from a well informed person, and thanks for the info. Do you have any opinion on the right way to deal with nuclear waste? Am I wrong in believing that we've got poorly defended waste pools all over the country, any of which could catch fire and spew radioactive waste over thousands of square miles if for some reason the pumps failed and we could not respond quickly enough to provide cooling? Are we prepared for a terrorist attack during a hurricane? What if a terrorist crash

      • by dwlovell (815091)

        They have to be stored in the short-term storage pools because its the only way the spent fuel gets cool enough to be stored in long-term storage. After about 5 years, the rods are cool enough to get moved from pools to spent-fuel casks which are then stored outside on a concrete pad at the nuclear facility. It is these casks that would be moved to off-site permanent storage which is stalled by bureaucracy.

        These casks are over-engineerd to be very safe. One company in the UK smashed two trains into their ca

  • 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 Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:33PM (#42209677) Journal
      Actually I like this system : for a long term project to succeed, it requires it to be consistent, non-partisan and well done. Arguably, the Yucca project had a lot of shortcomings, and the increasing maturity of fast-breeder reactors makes it likely that some of the wastes we want to bury will actually be usable as very precious and energetic fuel in 20 years. It makes sense to keep it stored in a more accessible fashion.
      • by radtea (464814) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:28PM (#42210241)

        Actually I like this system : for a long term project to succeed, it requires it to be consistent, non-partisan and well done

        This is as much about regional as partisan politics, although both have a role. The US is a relatively weak federation in important respects, and the ability of regional power bases to disrupt national policy is considerable.

        In science and technology, this usually appears as pork for supporters: various bits of the space shuttle (most famously, the SRBs) had to be made in particular states to garner the support of the appropriate senators.

        For single-site projects, like the superconducting supercolider in the '80's, everyone was for it until a specific site was identified, at which point everyone but the representatives from that state (Texas, I think), and that concerted opposition was enough to kill it.

        In the case of Yucca Mountain, the representatives from Nevada (notably Harry Reid) were able to concentrate their opposition, while no one was particularly zealous in favour of it.

        So in the US, single-site projects that have high political or economic costs or benefits to the state involved tend to fail. This is built in to the US system of regional representation.

        As such, local storage of waste--which would eliminate the decidedly non-negligible transport risk--is likely the only viable solution for Americans, because your government is structurally incapable of sustaining any other solution.

        • For single-site projects, like the superconducting supercolider in the '80's, everyone was for it until a specific site was identified, at which point everyone but the representatives from that state (Texas, I think), and that concerted opposition was enough to kill it.

          Of course, the facts that the project was massively behind schedule, massively over budget, and that the costs and schedule for the new tech required kept ballooning had nothing to do with it... It was all politics.

          various bits of th

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            For single-site projects, like the superconducting supercolider in the '80's, everyone was for it until a specific site was identified, at which point everyone but the representatives from that state (Texas, I think), and that concerted opposition was enough to kill it.

            Of course, the facts that the project was massively behind schedule, massively over budget, and that the costs and schedule for the new tech required kept ballooning had nothing to do with it... It was all politics.

            You pretty-much described just about every large project the US government undertakes. Nobody canceled the Space Shuttle for being massively over budget, because everybody had a stake in it. One man's waste is another man's fat profit margin (another man who likely contributes well to campaign funds).

            Nobody is going to stand up and vote against a project and say that it was because it doesn't meet their selfish interests. People always point to some lofty ideal, one that they're all to happy to ignore wh

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942)
        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.
      • Increasing maturity of fast-breeder rectors? To date all large scale FBRs have been liquid sodium cooled. [wikipedia.org] We have repeatedly proven that using liquid metal that explodes when in contact with water, and burns in contact with air, is a poor choice for a reactor coolant. They have all been shut down. They were all failures. Then there's the reason we abandoned them: a plutonium fuel cycle is a massive nuclear weapons proliferation risk.

        Now to be fair, Gen IV FBR architectures have considerable promise (as

      • by daemonenwind (178848) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @11:54PM (#42212315)

        It's worth noting a few things about the Yucca Mountain project that are not apparent from your post:

        -The Department of Energy first started investigating Yucca Mountain in 1978, under Jimmy Carter (D).

        -The site was supposed to begin accepting nuclear waste for storage in 1998 under Ronald Reagan (R)

        -The county in which the storage facility lies backs the site; it's other Nevadans who do not

        -The site was only shut down when a Nevadan had control of the Senate by supermajority, and his party held the House and the Presidency. Since that time, any bill which could force the President into a difficult decision has been blocked in the Senate. Considering that the Department of Energy is a Presidental Cabinet department, the horsetrade is obvious, and the terrific national cost is both clear and disregarded.

        The project was consistent and and non-partisan, having crossed through periods of control by either party. (Carter D, Reagan R, Bush R, Clinton D, Bush R) Until after the 2008 elections, that is.

      • The problem of waste storage is the main objection to nuclear power. Some of our leaders don't want that problem to be solved (either by Yucca or by breeder reactors), because they don't want that objection to be overcome.

        Never mind that nuclear power is the ultimate in green energy (no CO2 emissions, etc.); they oppose nuclear power in all forms. (Maybe they had proto-hippie parents who filled their minds with tales of glowing three-eyed fish [wikia.com].) If it's not an anemically low-energy-density source that ca

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:35PM (#42209693) Homepage Journal

      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.

      Democracy is the worst method of government, except for all the alternatives.

    • by fermion (181285)
      I take a different tact. Shifts in power provide checks and balances to insure that one groups entitlements and kickbacks do not become permanent policy. Yucca mountain is a boondoggle that effectively outsource the cost of waste delivery to the taxpayer. Yes I know that the nuclear energy companies put money into a fund. Yes I know that most will claim that nuclear power companies pay for all expenses. But even if that is the case now, history says it at some point future tax payers will get stuck with
      • by joh (27088)

        Just make it a law that nuclear waste may not pass state borders and has to be processed and dumped in the same state where it was produced (and have someone there pay for it).

    • Ask Mexico how things went with generation after generation of one party rule. Notice how everyone is trying to get the hell out of there as fast as they can?
  • by Toe, The (545098) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:23PM (#42209511)

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. All power has its cost. Yes, even wind and solar.

    Solar panels huge enough to collect loads of energy also cool the ground underneath them; changing climate patterns. And they kill what lives under them. (And if you put them in space, then you have the little problem of transporting the energy.)

    Wind farms huge enough to create loads of energy may actually affect wind patterns and temperature dispersal. Plus they kill loads of migrating birds.

    And both require many, many resources to build and maintain the collection devices.

    Hydro; well, that's an eco-disaster because you have to dam a river to produce it.

    Collecting energy from tides? If you did that on a huge scale, I'll bet it would have some major effects on marine life.

    Just want to put it out there. I'm not saying nuclear is fantastic. Just want to point out that nothing is.

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:37PM (#42209703) Journal

      Dunno about the others, but I call bullshit on this bit:

      Solar panels huge enough to collect loads of energy also cool the ground underneath them; changing climate patterns. And they kill what lives under them. (And if you put them in space, then you have the little problem of transporting the energy.)

      Err, no.
      * The panels themselves bear and handle the heat. It isn't as if you're instantly piping all the heat somewhere else, since the panels are bolted to the ground.

      * Shade does not automatically kill everything. You won't find plants under one which demand full sunlight, but anything else (especially animals) would probably appreciate and take advantage of the shade. Finally, if you park the panels in the desert (where nearly nothing grows anyway), it's not even a worry.

      * Energy transport from space to Earth is actually a solved problem. [wikipedia.org]

      • by KeithJM (1024071) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:59PM (#42209963) Homepage
        As a Seattleite, I'll point out that solar energy isn't the solution everywhere. I think the real issue is that we can't just choose a single energy source and decide it is going to replace oil. If you look at the numbers, we don't grow enough corn to make enough ethanol to do it (and we grow a ton of corn). We don't receive enough sunlight to completely replace oil with sunlight with our current solar panels without covering most of the planet, etc. What we can do is use multiple sources to generate electricity, and work to improve battery technology so we can more efficiently cart it around (oil is a really efficient way to transport energy). We don't need to pick one. We can use a bunch of them, and Seattle can use the tide while Arizona uses the sun.
        • *shrug* - I live near Portland, and even under a fully cloudy day (we get those as often as you do), you can still eke out enough light to get a good amount of output - just have to oversize things a bit.

          However, I never said that it were any sort of universal solution, and I agree with your post otherwise.

        • by rrohbeck (944847)

          Most of Germany is way north of your latitude so quit your whining.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Toe, The (545098)

        The panels themselves bear and handle the heat. It isn't as if you're instantly piping all the heat somewhere else, since the panels are bolted to the ground.

        Whatever energy the collectors collect is energy that is not left there. Gigantic farms are going to move a lot of energy away from a place.

        Shade does not automatically kill everything. You won't find plants under one which demand full sunlight, but anything else (especially animals) would probably appreciate and take advantage of the shade.

        Well, first, plants are life too. Huge farms are going to kill lots of plants. And the things which eat those plants. And the things which live in/on/around them. Just because they're not visible or edible to you doesn't mean that they don't have wide-ranging impacts on their ecosystem.

        Finally, if you park the panels in the desert (where nearly nothing grows anyway), it's not even a worry.

        And I call bullshit on this one. Deserts are full of life and are fragile ecosystems.

        • Whatever energy the collectors collect is energy that is not left there. Gigantic farms are going to move a lot of energy away from a place.

          Photovoltaic conversion doesn't convert heat to energy, but instead converts light to energy. As a matter of fact, heat is something that you want to avoid too much of, since increased heat degrades cell efficiency.

          Meanwhile, the generated heat is still there where it fell, and isn't going anywhere that it otherwise wouldn't go. Any Newtonian-based heat deficit would be some damned-near infinitesimal percentage at absolute best, and most likely contrived.

          Well, first, plants are life too. Huge farms are going to kill lots of plants.

          Please stop weaseling... you said that solar panels w

          • The light that the solar panels collect would have hit the ground and been converted to heat. The fact is you are taking energy away from the place, so it is going to get cooler.
      • by Dan East (318230) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:17PM (#42210133) Homepage Journal

        Err, no.
        * The panels themselves bear and handle the heat. It isn't as if you're instantly piping all the heat somewhere else, since the panels are bolted to the ground.

        Err, yes. That is *exactly* what solar panels do. They convert some amount of the light energy to electricity which is piped somewhere else. So some of the heat from that surface area is ending up as heat somewhere else, transmitted in the form of electricity. Obviously solar panels are not 100% efficient, thus they still get hot. However they cannot be as hot as a simple surface with the same light absorption - the latter would convert all of the light it absorbs directly to heat. That difference in heat between a static surface and solar panel (with the same light absorption) is the electricity that the solar panels produce.

        Additionally, the heat solar panels do emit doesn't travel into the ground. It convects into the air around it. Solar panels actually work best when cool. So it is important that air can flow under them to help keep them as cool as possible.

        The point is any time you're bleeding energy away from one part of the earth and piping it to a different area you are going to have an effect. The larger the scale, the larger the effect. Nuclear doesn't move energy around - it literally creates it directly from matter. So the OPs points are valid. It's just a matter of how large an impact those forms of energy production will have when operating at global scale.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kaatochacha (651922)

        oh, I think you overestimate the "not a worry" of the desert: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/its_green_against_green_in_mojave_desert_solar_battle/2236/ [yale.edu]

      • by Chuckstar (799005)

        * The panels themselves bear and handle the heat. It isn't as if you're instantly piping all the heat somewhere else, since the panels are bolted to the ground.

        Actually, it is exactly that you are piping the energy somewhere else. That's the entire point of solar photovoltaic.

      • Finally, if you park the panels in the desert (where nearly nothing grows anyway), it's not even a worry.

        That has to be the most uninformed, misguided thing you could say on the topic.

    • 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.

      • by radtea (464814) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:41PM (#42210349)

        Wind doesn't kill loads of migrating birds

        The Committee for Supporting the Ridiculous Kabuki Theatre that Passes for Environmental Policy Discussion would like to extend its gratitude to you for stepping up and posting the mandated reply to the inevitable idiot who comments that "windmills kill birds" twenty years after the major changes to windmill design substantially mitigated the problem.

        The Committee estimates that there are still roughly 3.2 billion idiots on Earth who have not updated their beliefs from the 1980s, and appreciate that while the task of replying to every single one of these unmitigated morons is arduous, tireless volunteers like yourself will eventually have replied to each and every one of them at least once by 2075.

        By that time, it is estimated that the average idiot will have been corrected at least 5 times, and that perhaps as many as 1% of them will have updated their beliefs in light of reality. While this number may seem disappointingly small in fractional terms, remember: it is still upwards of 30 million human beings whose tiny little minds have been changed by pointing out just how stupid they look when repeating falsehoods from several decades past.

        Keep up the good work!

      • by cecilgol (977329)
        Birds are not so much the concern these days, its migratory bats. Bats that move across the southern border are keystone species for pollination of many different plants, including agave, which is obviously the cornerstone of the tequila market. more windfarms == less tequila. Also, the way the bats are killed is pretty gruesome. They dont get chopped up, rather the rapid air pressure change from outside a windfarm to within it causes their fragile lungs to explode. http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Products/Publi [usgs.gov]
      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NAAzBArYdw [youtube.com] bird strikes are on youtube.
    • Well then, I propose we declare war on the laws of thermodynamics.

      On a more serious note, the important costs with most of those are dollars. "Solar kills what lives under them" is really not what's stopping solar power, the costs of converting are. And maybe that's mainly due to lobbyists and subsidies, I don't know. What I do know is that it's the money and not concern for the empty lots where panels would be placed that's keeping us from switching.
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      The problem is that Nothing is the end goal.

    • Oh just run a wire down from the satellites to the ground and use that. It can double as the space elevator cable. Problem solved.
  • Not to mention the idea of every morsel of radioactive waste being transported on public highways to a single location (Yucca Mountain) is not that popular. Sucks we still don't have a long term solution to this nasty problem. Oh well fuck it, we will leave it for the next generation - right?
  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:38PM (#42209721)

    So instead of storing highly toxic and radioactive waste deep underground in specially designed and very expensive long term storage meant to keep it safe from all kinds of disasters, we can keep storing it above ground in short-term storage pools that we know will fail if they should be exposed to a decent sized disaster. Keep in mind this isn't storage just for future waste, but stuff that actually exists, right now, sitting in short-term storage, and if you read TFA, you'll find out not only is there no other long-term storage option, there isn't even a plan for one. So who are most people going to blame when (not if, but when, unless we do something about it) those current storage sites fail? I'm betting it won't be Obama. Anyone want to take that bet?

  • Neocon View (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:46PM (#42209819)

    The author Adam J White, is a lawyer specializing in fighting federal regulation and is a contributor to the neocon rag The Weekly Standard (founded by Bill Kristol). This piece places the failure of Yucca mountain singularly on president Obama while saying worshipful things about Reagan every other paragraph.

    So take this "article" with a grain of salt. Any federal regulation is wrong to this neocon and everything is the fault of the current president. There was plenty of controversy and challenges to Yucca before Obama became president.

    • Re:Neocon View (Score:5, Interesting)

      by guises (2423402) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:58PM (#42209951)
      Thank you. I'm disappointed that I had to read down this far to find a comment like this, I get suspicious anytime I see anyone talking about "the Obama administration" doing anything. It's like "anthropogenic climate change" - a phrase which is technically accurate, but generally only used by partisans.
    • Re:Neocon View (Score:4, Insightful)

      by slew (2918) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:24PM (#42210199)

      Regardless of the piece, Obama made it a campaign pledge to stop Yucca Mountain, and stopping it has happened on his watch.

      You can assign Obama blame for this or praise him for doing what he promised to do, but the result is the same and the facts do not appear to be in dispute.

      - A 1987 law passed by congress required the NRC to evalute the Yucca Mountain site for suitability for nuclear waste storage.
      - In fulfilling his campaign promise, the Obama budget didn't allocate any new money to implement this law and Obama told the energy department to withdraw the application to the NRC to build the project.
      - Henry Reed didn't want it in his state, and was successful in blocking further financing for it in the Senate (even theough the House budget funded it), but he did not have the votes to change the original law that required the NRC evaluate the site.
      - It appears the NRC will now be forced by a federal appeals court to spend the previously authorized money to continue to evaluate the site until the money is gone (there isn't enough money to complete the evaluation) because of the 1987 law passed by congress.

      Certainly there are many problems with Yucca, but it appears that the NRC will be effectively prohibited to publish its report on Yucca Mountain by budgetary manuevers to cut off it's funding w/o actually overturning the law that authorized the evaluation. It probably wasn't gonna happen anyways (even Romney was against Yucca Mountain), so all that money was just a sunk cost. I guess the ends justifies the means in this case...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Harry Reid is one of the Senator's for the people of Nevada. That means he didn't want it because the people didn't want it. Should the other states be allowed to force Nevada to take it? Why are Republican states-rights advocates so gung-ho now in allowing the federal government to force Nevada to use Yucca? Ends justify the means indeed.

        And I'm a proponent of nuclear, but I don't live in Nevada. I can't tell them what to do.

  • Scary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by readin (838620) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:48PM (#42209833)
    It's scary how much president's get away with doing unilaterally these days. They start wars (Libya, Serbia) without congressional authorization. They unilaterally put into effect laws that they couldn't get passed through congress (like the DREAM act). Congress has become so cowed that the only tool they have against the president, impeachment, is pretty much a dirty word.

    I wish both parties in congress would start defending their institution more. Congress is supposed to be the source of laws and an obstacle to actions they deem appropriate. The president is supposed to make sure the laws are followed out, not make the laws himself.
    • It's scary how much president's get away with doing unilaterally these days.

      It is the inevitable result of a party based political system - parties function to circumvent the seperation of powers between executive and legislative branches and to a slightly lesser extent the judical branch too. They put the welfare of the party ahead of the welfare of the nation.

      I think the problem would be mitigated if we at least had a robust multi-party system where parties had to form coalitions in order to ever get a majority. At least then there would be some sort of accountability outside o

      • by readin (838620)

        It's scary how much president's get away with doing unilaterally these days.

        It is the inevitable result of a party based political system - parties function to circumvent the seperation of powers between executive and legislative branches and to a slightly lesser extent the judical branch too. They put the welfare of the party ahead of the welfare of the nation.

        It apparently didn't used to be that way. When Nixon needed to go it was Republicans that told him he needed to go. But when Clinton lied under oath the Democrats did everything they could to defending. Something had changed.

        I think the problem would be mitigated if we at least had a robust multi-party system where parties had to form coalitions in order to ever get a majority. At least then there would be some sort of accountability outside of a single party.

        Could be. Although having many parties creates different problems.

  • From the article.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MpVpRb (1423381) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:53PM (#42209897)

    "must be stored in isolation for tens of thousands of years"

    I find this to be extremely silly and wrong

    It does not need to be stored for tens of thousands of years

    It needs to be stored until technological and political change turn it from a waste into a valuable material for reuse

    • So what your saying essentially is.. ehhh, our kids will figure it out.

      • So what your saying essentially is.. ehhh, our kids will figure it out.

        Yes. We know that they'll eventually be able to -- it's mostly an engineering problem rather than a theoretical science problem. Now, if we weren't using any that power for anything that would benefit them -- scientific and technological advancement, economic growth, building things, being alive and healthy so that said kids will be born in the first place -- I would agree that we were being selfish about it. But I think on balance, the inherited benefits that they will derive from the power being generated

    • Oh you mean nuclear reprocessing [wikipedia.org]? On an economics basis it's dead in the water if the 2004 Japanese report about costs compared with storage. Realistically I think what needs to happen going forward are the usage of breeder reactors [wikipedia.org] which are two orders of magnitude more efficient than LWRs. They're more expensive to build (about 25%) but if you're playing the long game they're the obvious winner given present nuclear technologies.
  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:56PM (#42209929) Homepage Journal

    Yucca mountain may or may not be a great/terrible solution. Argue amongst yourselves.

    Here are the facts:
    * Billions spent
    * About 14 years late for initial use (scheduled for 1998)
    * No sign that it was ever going to get used

    I believe we need a solution. But I can't get to mad about scrapping a multi-billion dollar project that looks doomed to failure.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This article was written by the same kind of neoconservative that Penn and Teller represent. Teller is a fellow at The Cato Institute. The author of this article writes for The Weekly Standard. Both of these are very far right organizations and the article, like Bullshit! is overflowing with anti-government bias.
      • by Shoten (260439)

        This article was written by the same kind of neoconservative that Penn and Teller represent. Teller is a fellow at The Cato Institute. The author of this article writes for The Weekly Standard. Both of these are very far right organizations and the article, like Bullshit! is overflowing with anti-government bias.

        Actually, Penn and Teller are not at all neocons. They're more like libertarians. And they actually supported the government on Yucca in the episode, but instead blamed locals in Nevada for its failure. And truthfully, I'm trying to remember where the antigovernment bias has been in Bullshit!, as they've dealt with the Boy Scouts, the industry of sleep, sex, the lawn industry, manners...almost nothing they ever cover involves government, ever.

    • 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.

      And you ignore the fact that Obama was the guy who zeroed the funding. The trouble wasn't sufficient to stop the project, so as he promised during his campaign Obama stopped it.

      • by Shoten (260439)

        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.

        And you ignore the fact that Obama was the guy who zeroed the funding. The trouble wasn't sufficient to stop the project, so as he promised during his campaign Obama stopped it.

        If your dog gets hit by a car and mortally wounded, and your vet gives the dog a shot to humanely end his misery, whose fault is it that the dog died? Same thing. I'm not ignoring anything here; the person above who put the blame on Bush is actually correct. Rather than point fingers, I instead chose to demonstrate that Obama couldn't possibly have been the one who was driving the car that hit the dog, because the dog was hit before Obama got in a car for the first time. It's not like Yucca was on track

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Or the vet could have just given your dog some valium because in reality it was just scared due to all the morons yelling at it and didn't have any actual injuries and life could have went on.

          He could have put effort into getting it completed and operational, but he choose the ignorant way to go rather than intelligent way to go.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:50PM (#42210457) Homepage Journal

    They don't care. And they'll make toys and toothpaste out of it and sell it back.

  • energy infrastructure is uniquely subject to the control of the executive branch, and so to the influence of presidential politics

  • by mspohr (589790) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:13PM (#42210683)

    The real problem is that nobody wants nuclear waste because it is... well, radioactive, duh!
    This is the core problem with nuclear (fission) energy. There is no way to deal with the radioactive waste. Nobody wants it anywhere. Nobody wants the risk of disease. Everybody is a nuclear NIMBY.
    Much better to look at other sources of energy which don't have this waste problem which is qualitatively much different than any other industrial process.

    • by TheSync (5291)

      Everybody is a nuclear NIMBY.

      For just $1 billion, they can put it in MY backyard!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Store it safely and securely and then use it as an enormous energy source in breeder reactors?

      Considering coal generates more atmospheric radiation than nuclear with exciting particulates and chemicals, I'd much rather live next to a nuclear power station than coal (which is what half the world is falling back to these days).

  • Yup.
    I followed this closely. To get re-elected, Reid needed it killed. And Obama needed Reid. And it never came up during the election.

    By the way, the cost quoted is only the cost of the project. In addition, the USG is on the hook for another 12 B because DOE signed contracts to start taking fuel in 1998. The utilities are suing to recover their costs since 1998. Worst, this last cost does not come from the Waste Fund. It comes from general revenues.

  • Yucca Mountain was an expensive non-solution for a problem that only exists because we choose not to solve it. Modern reactors have a very different waste profile, as well as the capability to safely consume spent fuel from existing reactors while producing energy. Spent fuel is not something that should be buried, but rather is a vast energy resource that should be tapped. We need a change in policy in order to allow this, and people need to educate themselves and get behind it.

    The Nuclear Waste Fund [wikipedia.org] cu

  • "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"

    It's Nevada [nytimes.com] who is objecting to using the site as a nuclear waste dump.
  • Let the nuke industry house the fuel until THEY find a way to deal with it!

    This is just another manufactured chicken little scenario, just like the bank bailouts. Create a crisis which can only be 'solved' with a taxpayer-funded bailout.

    It's bad enough there is a cap on liability if they screw up.

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