Nuclear waste storage in limbo as Obama axes Yucca Mountain funds
Funding for the nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain was eliminated in the president's budget proposal. Planning begins anew for long-term storage even as Obama urges a nuclear-power expansion.
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“Energy sources should compete for public dollars based on how well they provide the clean, efficient, and affordable power we need. On that basis, nuclear power has a long way to go,” said Christopher Paine, director of the nuclear program at NRDC, in a statement.Skip to next paragraph
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Public support rises for nuclear power
Nuclear power not only enjoys greater support in political circles, but it also is finding greater acceptance among the public. Fifty-nine percent of Americans favor “using nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the US,” according to the March 2009 Gallup Environment Poll. That's up from a 46 percent favorable rating in 2001.
If the waste from any new plants and the 104 existing nuclear reactors isn’t bound for Yucca Mountain, however, where will the United State safely store spent nuclear for thousands of years?
That’s a question that will now be put to Lee Hamilton, the former congressman from Indiana, and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. The two will lead a commission to recommend alternatives to Yucca Mountain, which wasn't expected to be ready to receive waste shipments until 2020.
So far, most nuclear waste has been stored at or near the power plants where it is generated. For the foreseeable future, it seems as if that's where it will stay.
"Money talks and the president's budget shouts 'no more spending' on efforts to dump nuclear waste in Nevada," Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) of Nevada told the Las Vegas Sun. "We are closer than ever to winning the war on Yucca Mountain and the battle now is to pass this funding cut, so I'll be on the front lines leading the charge in the House."
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), an industry group, opposes nixing funding for the Yucca Mountain project.
“The industry does not support the termination of this program but believes that, if it is going to happen, it should occur in an orderly manner to permit the licensing process to be restarted if ever warranted,” said Marvin Fertel, NEI's president and CEO. But, he said, the NEI will work with Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Scowcroft to find a viable alternative for nuclear waste storage.
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