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January 31, 2015

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Letter from Washington:

NRC flap a platform for Yucca noise


Karoun Demirjian

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko answers a battery of questions pertaining to Yucca Mountain from members of the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment May 4, 2011.

If there was one take-away from this past week of intense scrutiny of Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko tailor-made for Nevadans, it was that the infighting at the NRC didn’t seem to have anything to do with Yucca Mountain.

But some lawmakers in Congress still really wanted to make that connection.

Since summer, a band of lawmakers with its sights on Yucca Mountain as a repository for the nation’s nuclear waste has been gunning for Jaczko, an opponent of the plan, charging him with sowing the seeds of discontent by strong-arming the commission into a vote that would keep the project suspended, just like Nevada Sen. Harry Reid (Jaczko’s old boss) would want.

The lawmakers’ unofficial ringleader is Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois. Earlier this year, he led a delegation of lawmakers on a fact-finding mission of Yucca Mountain; more recently, he’s chaired the Energy and Commerce subcommittee meetings looking into Jaczko’s actions on the issue, and organized colloquies on the House floor with some of his equally pro-Yucca colleagues to question why

the federal project has lain fallow for so long.

And on Wednesday he was tweeting.

“The Oversight hearing w/@NRCgov should remind us of #Jaczko’s illegal inaction on #Yucca Mnt,” he wrote as the House Oversight and Government Affairs committee spoke to Jaczko and the four other commissioners who have accused him of “intimidation and bullying” on everything but Yucca.

Shimkus has his reasons for pushing the Yucca Mountain angle: His home state, Illinois, gets 50 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and they need someplace safe to put all of that waste.

But it wasn’t just the pro-Yucca Mountain camp pushing the Yucca Mountain angle. Some of the most vocal opponents of the project were also drawing the connection between the NRC affair and proposed repository, when it seemed to be a secondary subject at best.

“This is nothing more than an attempt by those who want to dump deadly nuclear waste in Nevada to turn our state into a radioactive wasteland that will endanger hundreds of thousands of Nevada families and destroy our tourism industry,” Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley said when the reports detailing the allegations against Jaczko came out.

So was this near-mutiny all really, secretly about Yucca Mountain? Or is there some Yucca-ization afoot?


The commissioners in the midst of the squabble say no.

Yucca Mountain “was a big debate, but I don’t see it as a big debate that broke relationships,” said Commissioner William Magwood, a Democrat on the NRC who some lawmakers allege was coerced into voting with Jaczko on Yucca Mountain. “We moved on to other things and there really was no lasting impact.”

But for the lawmakers with cards to play on the issue, it helps to keep the tension of the fight alive, especially as the project is set to be scrutinized in Washington, D.C.; next month, the Blue Ribbon Commission releases its final report on nuclear waste, and soon after that, a D.C. circuit court will hear a lawsuit brought by various groups hoping to restart construction at the facility.

While anti-Yucca Mountain advocates hope those events will close the books on the project once and for all, they could bolster Yucca proponents if a Yucca debate is already under way.

So far, Yucca is dead at least through the current fiscal cycle: There’s no money in the 2012 budget for it — Reid made sure it was zeroed out again in the appropriations package Congress approved this weekend.

But Yucca proponents have their eyes on him too.

“As soon as Reid is out of office, we’ll win,” Sen. Mark Kirk told the Sun this fall.

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  1. "The lawmakers' unofficial ringleader is Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois. Earlier this year, he led a delegation of lawmakers on a fact-finding mission of Yucca Mountain..."

    It should be noted this delegation that went to Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) was a total waste of time, only political in nature. It has been widely reported that the lights weren't even on in YMP when they went there. How could Shimkus and his goons fact find anything there? Just a stupid photo op on the taxpayer's dime...

    This debacle calling Mr. Jaczko before the carpet backfired on an agenda that, if it don't involve YMP, it certainly involved trying to de-regulate and hamstring the NRC by putting a board in charge of it, rather than a single person. For years, some politicians prefer to muddy the waters in that fashion in order to make money.

    People need to read the news and find out about Hanford in Washington State. They have an incredible problem with nuclear waste, trying to store it properly. Everything they have tried has failed. The nuclear contamination is out of control and there are reports of gas leaks and even explosions, causing nuclear waste to seep through the earth. There are learned experts that say the next world nuclear catastrophe is when these leaks reach and contaminate the Columbia River FOREVER. And these idiots want to relax the regulations? You ask me, they need to be strengthened. And YMP is not going to solve this problem; just transfer it to Southern Nevada.

    "'As soon as Reid is out of office, we'll win,' Sen. Mark Kirk told the Sun this fall."

    That course of action won't work. I do have to agree that Senator Reid is an important factor in stopping YMP from happening, but it's not the only alternative available.

    We, the voters of Nevada, the people who ultimately have the say in which way our State goes, will effectively elect politicians in power that will keep up this fight.

    People may disagree with me, but I know a whole bunch of people who voted for Senator Reid SPECIFICALLY because of this issue. Sure, Sharron Angle in November 2010 was a whack job, but her stance on YMP was incredibly lame and dangerous. THAT issue, besides the other issues, was a main reason why Senator Reid was voted back into power.

    The main issue is that YMP is dead and it will stay dead. Because the voters here in Nevada cannot be manipulated to vote politicians into power who clearly only want YMP to happen in order to get money out of it, yet endanger our very way of life, not to mention turning Nevada into a desolate wasteland if catastrophe were to occur.

    Any politician from Nevada who grasps YMP and wants it to happen is dead politically. Just ask Heck and Amodei. Their time is numbered for their changing stances.

    In the meantime, keep hoping, Senator Kirk. Not gonna work. PLEASE spend a lot of money though and PLEASE waste time. Nevada decides our fate. NO ONE else.

  2. New Mexico's Los Alamos Laboratories are BEGGING for the opportunity to store and reprocess high level radioactive waste. Why aren't we talking about that?

    This latest NRC infighting is just another ploy to keep the Yucca Mountain High Level Radioactive Waste Repository Project in the news and on our radar. It also documents the mindset of those currently serving on the commission: they are dangerous people---solely serving the hand that feeds them (the private nuclear power industry).

    Blessings and Peace,

  3. Excellent suggestion, Unclegary! The greatest caveat is that there is great voter apathy here in Nevada. Not completely sure what to attribute the apathy to. Most folks I bump into, basically tell me that they feel that their voice/vote simply does not matter, so why bother.

    "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
    Thomas Jefferson

    Alexis de Tocqueville saying, "in every democracy, the people get the government they deserve".

    Blessings and Peace,