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December 22, 2014

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The Policy Racket

Japan’s nuclear meltdown prompts talk of safety, Yucca Mountain’s role

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WASHINGTON - The partial meltdown of several nuclear power plants around Japan as a result of a tsunami that wrought untold havoc there over the weekend is forcing a discussion about nuclear safety in the United States that could have big consequences for Nevada.

Development of nuclear as an energy alternative has been getting a huge political push in recent months, with both the Obama administration and the new Republican majority in the House favoring investment in the field, including restarting construction on nuclear power plants that have been waiting in the wings since the Three Mile Island incident in the ‘70s.

That new attention has, in turn, raised the question of what’s to happen with Yucca Mountain -- Nevada’s potential waste-dump site that hasn’t yet been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but hasn’t been scratched either.

Yucca Mountain has been off the agenda under the Obama administration’s last few budget requests, but now that Republicans are dictating much of the process, it’s back on. Last month, House leadership made sure to include a prohibition against using federal funds to wind down operations at the site in their fiscal 2011 budget reduction bill, on the rationale that the nuclear industry can’t expand until there is a place to dump spent waste.

While the Obama administration hasn’t taken the same tack on Yucca, there does seem to have been an inevitability about the issue for the last few months. “Clean” power nuclear energy is the one area in which the Obama administration’s renewable-friendly and the Republicans’ oil-and-gas friendly energy priorities seem to intersect, meaning a broad roll-out of nuclear power facilities was to be a likely fulcrum of any greater energy deal.

But the Japan incident already seems to be giving many in Washington pause about just how great an idea that nuclear roll-out might be.

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who has been a backer of nuclear, said Sunday on "Face the Nation" that he thinks the U.S. should abandon its plans for nuclear expansion for now.

“I think we’ve got to kind of quietly, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan,” he said.

Other senators in both parties have said the meltdown should only push the United States to direct more attention to developing safety and security measures for new facilities.

But to date, discussion about the potential for nuclear accidents in the United States has centered around problems of transportation, faulty machinery and human error -- not the kind of cataclysmic natural disasters that nobody can predict, fully safeguard against or control.

While much of the United States is susceptible to tsunamis, there are several active fault lines and areas of volcanic activity not far from where existing nuclear power plants, nuclear reactors for research purposes and other proposed commercial sites are located. The West Coast is the worst: in California, home to some of the country’s oldest licensed nuclear power plants, there are at least two full-scale commercial plants near the San Andreas fault, the country’s most earthquake-prone region.

While nuclear experts have argued that the plants in the U.S. have been built with the utmost attention to earthquake resistance, it’s also the case that the nuclear power plants currently in operation in the United States all date back, in part or in whole, to construction dates of more than 30 years ago.

But now that the issue is on the table, it appears the fear of an accident that has gripped Nevadans for several years is now spreading to other states’ representatives as they wait to see the full extent of the damage that will result from the Japanese crisis -- and decide if for them, too, the risks of nuclear power hit too close to home. If they do, it could be the final nail in the nuclear Yucca project that so many Nevadans have waited for.

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  1. When Yucca Mountain gets hit with a Tsunami, nuclear radiation will be the least of all worries.

  2. Whether or not new nuclear energy is a part of our future or not, old nuclear energy is part of the present and future.

    We have need to dispose of water currently stored on-site at plants throughout the country.

  3. I am very sorry to see what Japan has been faced with this past week and my sympathies are with them. The dangers of nuclear power are certainly real and ever present and this is a reminder to the wrong headed people who fill the conservative side of the aisle about how wrong they are on energy policy. I don't think they will change what minds they have though as cognitive dissonance rules their lives.

  4. Okay, all you liberals who are against coal-fired power plants: Is this nuclear risk what you prefer? You're against Yucca Mountain, right? Coal-fired plants are safe, efficient and, with today's technology, pretty clean. Studies have shown that we have enough coal reserves in the U.S. for 200+ years of power generation. Yet you and your president want to stop coal plants and coal mines which employ hundreds of thousands of people directly and indirectly. It would be wise to keep using coal today and into the future. Don't buy-into Harry Reid's "green energy" utopia nonsense.

  5. There is actually no similarities with the problem in Japan with their reactors and storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain Project (YMP).

    But, the entire Republican Party in power in the House and the Senate are making it some kind of priority, especially those from areas that stand to gain from it...specifically Washington and South Carolina.

    The danger is already evident. In the State of Washington, they already have nuclear waste leaking; detected very, very close to standing ground water. It's guaranteed that if YMP happens, Washington would be very glad to ship it in Hefty trash bags by the tons...anything....just to get rid of it...because they love to generate the waste, but they don't know how to store it...nor do they want to store it.

    They would love to get this back on the docket so they can move tons and tons of nuclear waste out of their States.

    What every southern Nevada should take issue with is the fact that those people don't control Nevada. WE control what happens in southern Nevada. The overwhelming majority of residents here don't want YMP to happen.

    Now, if only I could get a Congressman (Heck) who shows some cajones and tells the other Republicans to go pound sand and take it somewhere else...and not kowtowing to every single thing they want on this issue...then southern Nevada would be well represented in the House. Lately, all rhetoric and talk about YMP emitting from Congressman Heck's esophagus is always hinting at promoting YMP. This will prove to be his political demise...making him a one termer.

  6. The photovoltaic & solar construction projects in Nevada are on hold.There currently is noone working on them.Call your Senators & tell them to get those projects going.

  7. France develops 80% of it's Utility power from Nuclear plants without any accidents. We should learn to parlez French for starters.

  8. Bob "Mothra" List is to blame. He would shut down all of Las Vegas just so he can get his money from the Nuke industry.

    The nuke industry just dumped a lot of money on the Heritage Foundation so they can advertise on FOX and talk radio.

    It is better that the money comes from Heritage, Cato, etc. than the nuke industry directly.

    Typical right wing echo machine. Big Corporations, Hertitage, Hilesdale College, Cato, NPRI, etc. then ads on talk radio and FOX.

    The money is laundered through talk radio and FOX.

  9. When Yucca Mountain gets hit with a Tsunami, nuclear radiation will be the least of all worries
    ****

    I wouldn't worry about a tsunami - but I sure as hell would be worried about a 7.9 earthquake which in all probability is likely.

  10. There are many nuclear power plants sitting on or near fault lines. Yucca Mountain was never a SAFE storage place. High level radiation is scheduled to sit OUTSIDE the tunnel for years. Rain or other natural events will poisen the ground water which flows to Lake Mead, YOUR DRINKING WATER SOURCE. If you think this safe for Las Vegas, I suggest you think about the serious health risks, leading to cancer and death, especially of the young and senior citizens. Time to wake up so that Nevada does not become a hazardous waste dumping ground to rest of the nation. Marlene Rogoff, Candidate for Mayor of Las Vegas