Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011 | 2 a.m.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday ordered an agency panel to shut down its review of the federal government’s request to turn Nevada into a high-level nuclear waste dump.
Citing budgetary issues, the commission told the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to wrap up work by the end of the month on the Bush-era application to build the dump at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. That’s good news for Nevada, which has diligently been working to kill the dangerous plans for more than two decades.
Certainly, the project could be revived, but it would take an incredible effort to resuscitate it. Plagued by safety issues, technical woes and budget cuts, a Yucca repository has been moribund for years but still hangs on.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has led the fight against a Yucca repository, said the result of the NRC’s order is that it “brings Yucca closer to its rightful end.”
That end can’t come too soon.
Unfortunately, in its order, the NRC left the door open for the project. The commission was asked to review a decision by the board that said the Obama administration didn’t have the authority to withdraw the application to build the dump. A 2-2 vote by the NRC let the board’s decision stand. Nuclear power advocates who have been championing a Yucca repository saw the vote as a victory in their favor because it keeps the project alive.
But the NRC’s split decision wasn’t exactly a win for the nuclear industry, which is pushing a project that has been an embarrassment to the country. The federal government has spent billions of dollars trying to prove that it can safely transport high-level nuclear waste and then store it for thousands of years in Yucca Mountain, a volcanic ridge in the middle of an area known for earthquakes. The government has failed.
However, the nuclear power industry and its supporters in Congress have tried to keep the project alive. Now, they are pointing to the billions of dollars already spent to argue that the government shouldn’t abandon the project. That’s ludicrous. Why spend more money on a project that just doesn’t make sense?
As we have noted before, the plan is both dangerous and expensive. Enough is enough. It’s time for the project to be ended once and for all.