Is it okay for Harry Reid to re-gift nuclear waste back to Illinois?

There are plenty of reasons for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to go, and not the least is the shafting that he is giving to Illinois and its electric utility customers.

Reid effectively is blocking the completion of a safe, permanent storage facility for high-level radioactive waste deep under Yucca Mountain in Nevada, leaving Illinois and others states without a solution for how to store spent nuclear fuel.

The action could cost ComEd and electric utility customers megabucks, representing the money ratepayers have been forking over to build a permanent depository. The irony is that Reid's hosing of Illinois is being administered by the administration of President Barack Obama, who calls Illinois home.

We've been reminded of all this by news of the start of the dismantling of the Zion nuclear power plant, shut down a dozen years ago. Arrangements have been to disassemble the plant, piece and piece, and transport its materials, some of it classified as lower level radioactive, to a safe site elsewhere.

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  • Yucca Mountain has neither been shown safe, nor capable of being permanant. The DOE has chosen a wise course by discontinuing the battle with Nevada, as Nevada has successfully proven multiple times that Yucca Mountain is unable to contain nuclear waste.

  • The license application for Yucca Mountain demonstrates that the likely outcome of disposing of 70,000 metric tons of uranium will be an additional 2 millrem per year to the person living where the regulations have placed him/her, a million years from now. This is less than 1% of natural background and suggests what was proposed was very likely to be safe.

    The objections from the state of Nevada did not prove the proposed repository unsafe. They challenges some of the results of the science conducted and some of the assumptions in the modeling of the future state of the system. These challenges, if the licensing process would have continued, would have been addressed in that process.

    There are reasons to look to other rock types to locate a repository, but the proposed Yucca Mountain repository being shown to be unsafe is not one of them.

  • While friguy is correct that the nuclear waste repository proposed for Yucca Mountain has not been "shown" to be safe, the respected Abe van Luik summarizes what the license application submitted in 2008 to the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission shows. It would have been helpful for all to have allowed the NRC to make the determination as to whether or not there is reasonable assurance that the facility meets the safety and other regulatory requirements. Instead, the Obama Administration which declared in 2009 that scientific decisions should not be subordinated to politics chose to withdraw the license application and if the NRC agrees we shall never learn whether the proposed facility is safe or not. The State of Nevada, sworn to use all means to defeat the project, is hardly objective and has put a great deal of effort by a clever and skillful team to challenge the license.

  • Meanwhile, the White House has appointed a distinguished panel of experts as a Blue Ribbon Commission to come up with a non-Yucca solution to the disposal problem. With many convinced the site was chosen in a political decision in 1987 and most believe that it was cancelled on political grounds, one of the challenges to the Commission is finding a way to commit the resources for a long-term solution to a national problem that is not prone to disruption based on political cycles.

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