NEW BOOK REVIEW
The timing might not have been worse: President Obama deletes funding for the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository in Nevada and two years later the Fukushima nuclear meltdown caused by the Japan earthquake and resulting tsunami triggers new alarms over whether nuclear power can be counted on to generate electricity safely. There are now even more questions than answers confronting the U.S. about what to do with spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants and highly radioactive defense waste.
A new book, Fuel Cycle to Nowhere, by Richard Burleson Stewart and Jane Bloom Stewart, published today by Vanderbilt University Press, provides a cogent and up-to-date assessment of limited options facing U.S. policymakers. The outlook is not encouraging. The outcome, no matter what it is, will be enormously expensive at a time when the U.S. has precious little money to expand government programs or facilities.
Backed by 112 pages of footnotes, the authors unravel the 60+ year legacy of U.S. nuclear energy and defense programs. They point the figure, correctly, at how a “raw political power play” earmarked the these dangerous materials for a mountain range about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The site, last visited by TheEnergyFix Founder and Editor Jim Pierobon in 2006, getting ready to begin accepting waste when Obama pulled the plug in early 2009, cutting off the funding needed for its completion and sustainable operation.
It is no coincidence that the “Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future” organized by Obama released the draft of its report for public comment July 29. In that draft, the Commission, co-chaired by former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush, recommend these five legislative changes:
1. Establish a new facility siting process.
2. Authorize consolidated interim waste disposal facilities.
3. Establish a new waste management organization.
4. Ensuring access to dedicated funding — much of it already paid for by ratepayers of nuclear utilities.
5. Promote international engagement to support safe and secure waste management.
Read Fuel Cycle to Nowhere and you’ll understand how the chances of all these occurring are nil — unless the Federal government makes a compelling attractive appeal to a state — read here New Mexico — to accept the waste, its risks and its thousands of new jobs that come along with it.