A Friday vote has left the fate of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository hang ing in the balance. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is deadlocked 2-2 over whether the Energy Department could withdraw the license application for Yucca Mountain.
The commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board had decided it could not do so. At the same time, the NRC instructed the board to close the file on the application by Oct. 1, rendering the site inoperable. It’s an apt symbol of the Obama administration’s habit of backing hard-left “progressives” while thwarting real progress.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - a Nevada Democrat who has long opposed the repository burrowed into a remote mountainside 90 miles from Las Vegas - has spent years pulling strings to ensure the facility remains an empty $17 billion hole to nowhere. With the anti-Yucca Mountain vote of close ally NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko safely in his pocket, Mr. Reid has enlisted the help of President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu in deleting funding for the project.
Sensing victory for not-in-my-backyard politics, Mr. Reid crowed, “Today’s decision by the NRC brings the Yucca Mountain saga closer to its final conclusion.”
Not so fast, countered House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton. “Today’s action means the Yucca Mountain license application remains alive,” the Michigan Republican said in a statement. He noted that the House voted 297-130 during the summer to provide funding for the license procedure to go forward. But Mr. Reid stands in the way of Senate approval, making the odds of successful funding slim. With no operating license and no money, the desert repository is likely to remain shuttered.
Meanwhile, the Energy Department is waiting to hear back from a blue-ribbon commission that is looking into alternative methods of storing the nation’s nuclear waste. Predictably, anti-nuclear activists have stirred up opposition to each possibility, which range from continued storage at the nation’s 104 nuclear-reactor sites to reprocessing the waste at nuclear-weapons facilities. When the panel reports its findings next March, its recommendation is likely to be “none of the above.”
To be sure, the one-two punch of earthquake and tsunami that triggered Japan’s nuclear disaster cannot be dismissed. Rather than fear of an accident, however, it is loyalty to the left’s anti-industrial policy that forms the basis for Obama administration opposition to all things atomic.
Blocking the opening of Yucca Mountain has resulted in a critical nuclear-waste storage problem that threatens the future of the entire nuclear industry. As long as the O Force remains in charge, the only waste likely to fill the Nevada hole are the billions of dollars that paid for it.