Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yucca, v.4.2011

In only the latest of the many twists and turns of the saga that is Yucca Mountain, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced last week that it will investigate the Obama administration's decision to de-fund the only site in the nation slated for long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste.  At least two factors clearly informed this move: the ongoing disaster at Fukushima Daiichi, and the growing GOP push-back against the incumbent administration's environmental agenda.

The press release makes this clear.  Some highlights:

  • "Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Environment and the Economy Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) are launching the inquiry after reviewing available evidence indicating there was no scientific or technical basis for withdrawing the [DOE's] application [for approval of the project]."

  • "Congress is demanding answers about the administration’s decision to halt development of the only permanent U.S. site for spent nuclear fuel."

Congressman Upton's view of the Obama administration's decision, clearly, is quite dim:

The administration’s move to shutter Yucca raises serious red flags.  Despite the scientific community's seal of approval, extensive bipartisan collaboration, as well as nearly three decades and billions of taxpayer dollars spent, this administration has recklessly sought to pull the plug on the Yucca repository without even the sensibility of offering a viable alternative.

No matter what conclusions the investigation ultimately reaches, both the fact that it's happening and the tone in which it has been launched are notable.  They remind us of a few truths of energy policy in the United States:  We constantly allow what will eventually be pressing energy issues lie dormant in the background until a catastrophe or disaster pushes us to action.  When we do take action, we allow politics to divide us.  And our allowance of those divisions, in turn, fractures our overall energy policy.

Only time will tell whether the latest turn of events for Yucca Mountain will lead us down the same road we have repeatedly trod over the last century, or whether, as we enter the second decade of this millennium, we might find new hope in old problems.

Further coverage on the investigation is available here, here, and here.  The letters to Secretary Chu and Chairman Jaczko are, respectively, here and here.

-Lincoln Davies

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/environmental_law/2011/04/yucca-v411.html

Climate Change, Current Affairs, Energy | Permalink

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