Nuclear Waste Disposal

Activists have successfully fought nuclear power generation by preventing a national solution to disposing of the waste. A Denver Post article describes how federal officials worked to open a central disposal facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Nevada politicians opposed after the money was spent to prepare the site, and Obama declared Yucca Mountain as an “unworkable solution” early in his Presidency. The result was that about 70,000 tons of waste (increasing by about 2,000 tons per year) is now stored at 99 power plants and 14 closed plants around the country. Guarding the spent fuel is expensive and the waste will eventually have to be repackaged if a permanent solution can’t be developed. I’ve never heard that anyone claim that what we are doing now is safer than what could have been accomplished by opening Yucca Mountain.

There is a long list of positives about nuclear energy. Advocates of reducing carbon dioxide emission to combat climate change should be thrilled that nuclear plants don’t emit carbon dioxide. Nuclear power generates about a fifth of the electricity in America despite the fierce opposition that has successfully impeded its development. Wind power might catch up with that amount by 2020. I was surprised to read that John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy, also added, “We benefited from the nuclear deterrence.”

The federal government convened a meeting in Denver to discuss the problem of nuclear waste. Kotek said, “We’re not at all at the stage of looking at locations. We’re developing a process.” He also added, “…having a waste disposal path would make nuclear more acceptable.” In my opinion, he doesn’t get it. Opponents fully understand that solving the problem of waste disposal would make nuclear energy more acceptable. That’s exactly why they will never agree to any solution. Plans to drill an exploratory bore hole thee miles deep under North Dakota for nuclear weapon waste were scrapped in the face of objections from residents. The problem won’t be solved until we find some politicians with the courage to do the right thing. Considering our latest crop of politicians, I’d say we shouldn’t hold our breath.

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