Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
search  
 
Subscribe   Subscribe   MI on Facebook Find us on Twitter Find us on Instagram      
 
 
   
 
     
 

Washington Examiner

 

Obama's Yucca Budget Bungle

August 26, 2009

By Max Schulz

For someone who vowed to restore science to its rightful place, President Obama seems awfully interested in playing politics when it comes to nuclear waste. The result is a grotesque misuse of taxpayer dollars that puts the nation’s nascent nuclear renaissance at risk.

Consider the recent crowing from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, about his late July phone chat with the president. Reid claims that Obama personally assured him that he will eliminate funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in the 2011 budget, which will be crafted next year.

That effectively would prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from conducting its independent scientific assessment of the site’s suitability for storing nuclear waste some 90 miles from Las Vegas.

This is highly disturbing. If Obama truly intends to kill Yucca Mountain, then why did he propose to spend nearly $200 million on it in his 2010 budget? And why did he work with Congress in February to agree to spend $288 million this year? That’s nearly half a billion dollars, which, if Yucca Mountain is to be shuttered, might as well be buried underground.

Perhaps $488 million is not all that much money considering the $700 billion stimulus package or a $2 trillion deficit this fiscal year. But remember that at his first cabinet meeting Obama instructed agency chiefs to find $100 million in cuts as a way to close the public’s "confidence gap" over government spending.

It turns out that taxpayers may be on the hook for a lot more if Obama terminates Yucca Mountain. Under the terms of a 1982 law, the federal government is obligated to take nuclear waste off utilities’ hands, and has collected more than $30 billion from ratepayers over the last several decades to do it.

The feds were supposed to start taking possession of waste in 1998, but with politics delaying Yucca’s construction, utilities have been storing the stuff on-site. Some have sued, winning nearly $7 billion in judgments against the government for failing to live up to its end of the bargain.

The feds were supposed to start taking possession of waste in 1998, but with politics delaying Yucca’s construction, utilities have been storing the stuff on-site. Some have sued, winning nearly $7 billion in judgments against the government for failing to live up to its end of the bargain.

Those judgments have been suspended, however, since the Department of Energy can claim a good-faith effort to build the repository. Evidence of that good faith is the 8,600 page license application DOE submitted to the NRC last year.

Cutting off funding for the license application, as Reid claims Obama intends, would have the practical effect of withdrawing it. And that would put the federal government in default. The treasury would have to start writing huge checks to the utilities operating the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors. It would also call into question control of the roughly $22 billion that remains in the so-called Nuclear Waste Fund.

It’s worth noting that, as a presidential candidate, Obama declared his opposition to the relicensing of existing nuclear reactors until the storage question is resolved. Plans to build new reactors, meanwhile, may hinge on the unsettled waste issue.

Yet it is precisely Obama’s Yucca Mountain chicanery that makes it unlikely that there will be a satisfactory resolution any time soon. Obama has offered no alternative to Yucca other than to convene a blue-ribbon panel--the classic government cop-out--to study the issue.

Most appalling is Obama’s seeming hostility to sound science. Government scientists have spent several decades and billions of dollars determining that Yucca Mountain could safely hold the nation’s nuclear waste.

The experts at the NRC have been prepared to spend several years conducting their own independent review of that claim. But Obama aims to pull the plug. Does Obama consider science’s rightful place to be on the shelf?

Original Source: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/Manhattan-Moment/54818412.html

 

 
PRINTER FRIENDLY
 
LATEST FROM OUR SCHOLARS

Charter Center Advertises for More English Language Learners
Eliza Shapiro, 10-09-14

What the FDA Won’t Let Your Doctor Know Can Kill You
Paul Howard, 10-08-14

Reclaiming the American Dream III: The CT Yankee Saving Kids In Southern Ohio
Howard Husock, 10-07-14

Federal Employees Spent 3.4 Million Hours Working For Their Unions
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, 10-07-14

Why Charters Serve Fewer English Learners
Marcus A. Winters, 10-06-14

Creator Of Chart Of Doom Defends Chart Badly And Casts Aspersions
Scott Winship, 10-06-14

Initiative Reform Doesn't Fix The Real Problem
Ben Boychuk, 10-04-14

The Inequality Non-Explainer, Explained
Scott Winship, 10-03-14

 
 
 

The Manhattan Institute, a 501(c)(3), is a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas
that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.

Copyright © 2014 Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Inc. All rights reserved.

52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017
phone (212) 599-7000 / fax (212) 599-3494