Does the Department of Energy really think it’s going to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people with its latest plan for storage of nuclear waste? Apparently so.
While Congress argues over deficits and debt limits, DOE continues to waste billions of dollars side-stepping issues and putting off the inevitable so they don’t have to wade into the unpleasant waters of actually stepping on someone’s toes – even though it’s their job.
It’s been 30 years since the government began looking for long-term solutions for disposing of nuclear waste. Ronald Reagan was president, the Cold War was still on, a gallon of gas cost $1.24 and Dallas was America’s favorite TV show.
The government, charged with finding a long-term disposal solution for this waste, studied the issue for years. Scientists said putting the waste in rock deep underground was the safest method. Yucca Mountain in Nevada was selected in 1987. Delays and lawsuits kept the site from opening in 1998 as planned.
Work continued and billions of dollars were spent preparing the Yucca Mountain facility, including $1.3 billion South Carolinians paid in utility surcharges specifically for that project.
Meanwhile, this dangerous waste was sitting in temporary storage facilities at places like the Savannah River Site waiting for a permanent home.
Fast forward to 2008. Barack Obama is elected president and Harry Reid, a senator from Nevada, becomes Senate Majority Leader. His constituents decided they didn’t want all that waste in their state, so he managed to get funding for it stopped.
So another committee – this one with the important-sounding name Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future – was charged with finding a solution. Its report has a significant focus on a “consent-based” approach to the siting of interim and permanent geological repositories. In other words: If the neighbors don’t like it, we won’t put it there.
Last week, DOE outlined its plan for dealing with this waste.
The only thing is, it doesn’t call for the goal to be reached until 2048. That’s 35 years. Those children born as the DOE was first talking about finding a storage solution will be 65 by then.
Worse, this new plan is fraught with issues that will most likely upend progress at every turn.
First there are the studies with the goal of having a pilot storage facility with limited capacity open by 2021. Next, there would be the full-scale temporary storage facility – opening by 2025.
Finally, the plan demands “demonstrable progress” be made on the siting and characterization of repository sites to facilitate the availability of a geological repository by 2048.
Harry Reid will be 109 years old by then.
All the while, Yucca Mountain sits idle, a testament to bad politics and bad government.