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United States Politics

How Yucca Mountain Was Killed 340

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 sycodon ( 149926 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @06:33PM (#42209675)

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:17PM (#42210133) 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:01PM (#42211155)

    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).

  • Re:Neocon View (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:21PM (#42211321)

    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.

  • 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.

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