Goodbye, Yucca Mountain: Obama's Budget Cuts Nuclear Storage Plans


Photo via AP

The big ol' budget Obama dropped off last week has funding for many, many things, but evidently none of them are nuclear repositories. Yes indeed, under Obama's proposed budget, we'd be bidding adieu to the notorious Yucca Mountain—the site designated for decades to become our nation's nuclear waste storing house. So what's the plan for all that leftover nuclear waste still stored at hundreds of sites across the country?Yanking Yucca
What's the plan indeed. No alternative has been proposed, and without Yucca or some other central depository, nuclear power plants are expected to need billions more dollars to build storage containers to continue to keep the waste onsite. That's a lot of cash for a not-so sustainable solution.

And the New York Times points out that abandoning Yucca, which has already ballooned into a massively expensive project, would mean that the roughly $10 billion the government's spent arranging to store radioactive material was wasted. We'd essentially be starting from scratch in our search for proper nuclear waste containment--a search few politicians are eager to begin again.

If Not Yucca, Where?
See, many politicians want to go ahead and get Yucca up and running in Nevada (none of whom are Harry Reid, who happens to be the senator of Nevada), since if the huge nuclear stockpile doesn't end up there, it could end up--well, anywhere. And few politicians are enthusiastic about informing their constituents that they're going to be building a giant nuclear dump in their state. It's the ultimate NIMBY problem.

Farewell, Sweet Nuclear Waste Repository
But an end to Yucca might be a very good thing. Recent studies have shown that water flows through the proposed site much faster than was previously thought--meaning there's a good chance that nuclear waste could leak into the groundwater supply. Bad news. Also, astonishingly, Yucca has never been subject to an independent scientific study to determine whether it checks out--it was simply picked because it seemed "dry and remote" enough.

A solution does need to be found for the nuclear waste problem, however reluctant government may be to look for it. And all this mess might lead to an important insight: nuclear power is still harder to handle than many are prepared to admit. So perhaps it's not such a good idea to go ahead break ground on the first set of new nuclear power plants in 30 years, as is currently the plan—especially since they're proving to be so damn expensive. I'm sure the renewable energy sector could use the dough—and with wind turbines, at least we wouldn't have to build any more gigantic bunkers in the dessert to store radioactive waste.

More on Nuclear Power:
New Generation of Nuclear Power Plants More Expensive than Expected
Green Nuclear Waste?
Wind Power Expansion in 2007 Beats Nuclear 10-to-1

Tags: Barack Obama | Congress | Energy | Nevada