Friday, May 13, 2011

GAO Report Says DOE YUCCA Closure Inappropriate

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress states that the Department of Energy decided to shut down the Yucca Mountain repository for policy reasons, not technical or safety reasons.

The Center agrees.  Center President Norris McDonald visited the Yucca Mountain site in 2002 and he believes it is the perfect location as our national repository for nuclear waste.  The Center also believes Yucca Mountain  is an ideal site for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

It is ironic and very sad that a Noble Prize winning physicists, DOE Secretary Steven Chu, is promoting a political decision instead of a scientific decision.  The report, released Tuesday, concluded that DOE had not fully complied with all regulations in its hasty shutdown of the project.  DOE strongly disagreed with much of the report in a 14-page letter to the GAO.

A Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission is researching alternatives to Yucca Mountain. The Center presented testimony before the commission.  That could include reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, but there would still be high-level waste residues from the process, plus weapons waste from Hanford and other sites, that would need to be disposed of, the report said.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu's "judgment is not that Yucca Mountain is unsafe or that there are flaws in the license application, but rather that it is not a workable option and that alternatives will better serve the public interest," DOE said in a filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.  Secretary Chu fails to explain why and how the Yucca site is 'not a workable option.'  He should just state that it is not workable because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opposes Yucca Mountina for political reasons and thus the Obama administration is obliged to punt on this site.  Science be damned.

The Center agrees with the GAO assessment that:

"...termination would also restart the costly and time-consuming process of finding a permanent disposal repository or some other solution for spent nuclear fuel and could take decades and billions of additional dollars." 
The GAO report put spending at almost $15 billion between the start of work to pick a repository site in 1983 through submitting a license application to the NRC for Yucca Mountain.  DOE already has spent about $9 billion from a money collected from utilities while nuclear power plants are operating.

The Center agrees with the GAO report conclusion that: "Shutting down the Yucca Mountain project also may have further damaged DOE's credibility."  (The News Tribune, 5/11/2011)

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