Unlocking Yucca Mountain

U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein needs to unlock a mountain to find a new way to store dangerous spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants in the West.  At a Senate hearing on Friday, she said she wants a review of the way the spent fuel rods are stored.  She says the disaster in Japan is showing us that it's dangerous to store the spent fuel in water near the reactors, but right now there is no choice because her fellow democrats in Congress killed the last big idea to store this dangerous by-product of atomic power.

 In the bare, unpopulated middle of Nevada there is a mountain.  The government has already spent $14 billion dollars to dig out the belly of that solid rock mountain and create a high tech, secure repository for spent nuclear fuel rods.  It's a place where they can slowly disintegrate and dissipate the radiation safely.  There are roads to it, railroad tracks laid to it, buildings, gates, security, and everything is ready.  However, the U.S. is not using it.  Politics killed Yucca Mountain, specifically Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. 

 The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository is in Nye County, Nevada.  County leaders wanted Yucca Mountain open.  It would have created jobs and promoted local commerce.  The community development manager for the county says people there are comfortable with it.  So why did it die?  Senator Harry Reid knew he was facing a tough re-election campaign and in order to win, he needed the votes from population centers like Las Vegas and Reno.  People in these larger cities were ambivalent about Yucca Mountain and the nuclear fuel rods being stored in Nevada.  So, Reid began an angry NIMBY campaign.  He ran campaign commercials suggesting that some in Congress were picking on Nevada and forcing Yucca Mountain on its citizens.  Enough voters bought it and re-elected Reid and then when it came time to open the repository, Reid voted to kill it.  The people in the big cities of Nevada celebrated, but the people in Nye County were devastated.  Since then, the repository has been locked and abandoned.

 So, now we fast forward to the crisis in Japan and the concern now that there is no safe place to store the spent fuel rods.  Senator Feinstein may want to visit Senator Reid's office and ask him if he knows of a safe solution. A federal investigation is now underway into why the project was scrapped.  Most scientists say it is the only safe and right solution to the problem.  Someone must still have a key to the front door at Yucca Mountain. 

Categories: KUSI