EDITORIAL: Boondoggling in Never-Never Land

Democrats play politics with Americans’ safety

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Washington engineers waste. After pouring billions into a nuclear waste storage repository, the Obama administration has added its two cents: Start over.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu issued his report Jan. 11, rubber-stamping the final recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. This was not surprising since he selected the panel members and imposed restrictions on its purview. Most important was his order that the commission not examine the viability of the nuclear repository already constructed and virtually ready for use: Yucca Mountain.

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office reported the 2010 shuttering of Yucca Mountain was a political maneuver and not a result of technical or safety concerns. Americans can thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for turning the facility into one of the most egregious symbols of government waste in U.S. history. The Nevada Democrat has used his political muscle to block the repository’s opening after the feds spent more than $12 billion and 30 years building it in his home state. The giant hole burrowed into a desolate mountain range now sits empty.

In his report, Mr. Chu seconded the commission’s recommendation that a “consent-based approach” be used in selecting an alternative repository site. Yucca Mountain is surrounded by the Nevada Test Site, already the property of Uncle Sam. To suggest that somewhere, a community will volunteer to be the site of a nuclear storage facility without the usual objections from anti-nuclear activists is highly implausible.

House Republicans made that point in a subsequent statement following the release of Mr. Chu’s report: “If politics are allowed to derail a project set forth in 1983, there is no reason to believe this new effort will be any more successful,” said Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton and subcommittee chairman John Shimkus.

Mr. Chu affirms the panel’s advisement that a new government bureaucracy be created to oversee the siting and construction of an interim storage facility by 2025 and a permanent one by 2048. With $28 billion in its piggy bank collected from public utilities to pay for the repository, the administration can use the cash to fund legions of well-paid office workers to repeat the process of creating another boondoggle. We can’t afford to delay a solution to the nuclear waste problem for several more decades. Sixty-eight metric tons of nuclear waste remain in temporary storage at 72 locations around the country. Americans can do little but cross their fingers that nothing untoward happens to the dangerous material as the the administration continues to drag its feet.

At the core of the repository struggle is the fact that nuclear power is anathema to the trendy but expensive windmill and solar panel lobby that holds sway over the administration’s energy policy. Throwing obstacles into the path of safe disposal is a backhanded means of clouding the future of affordable nuclear energy. If the White House has its way, the repository will be sited in Never-Never Land.

The Washington Times

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