11 Aug 2011

IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA the need to safely dispose of the nuclear waste at the hundreds of sites, including nine(9) where now-closed reactors once stood, has taken on new urgency in recent months, after the Fukushima Tragedy made it very clear that globally, “Spent-Fuel Pools” function as long term repositories; THEY ARE NOT.  Actually, “Spent-Fuel” is a misnomer.  Spent-fuel retains more than 90% of its radioactive energy (though not usable “as-is”) for Nukes and yet, it CONTAINS THE MOST TOXIC OF NUKE BY-PRODUCTS IMAGINABLE. A whole bevy of hard to enumerate and even read, names of short, and long-life “Transuranics”- Isotopes.  Some of these will remain deadly radioactive for millennia; If the world knew how to “clean up this mess” brought upon us by the Uranium Energy Cartel, they would already have done so.  SPENT-FUEL POOLS ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR LONG-TERM NUKE WASTE REPOSITORIES.

PROBLEM REMAINS: WHERE TO SAFELY STORE NUCLEAR WASTE FOR THE LONG TERM. We must realize that this is rapidly growing global problem;  However, for the purpose of this article, we shall narrow our concern focus to the United States.  TRUTH IS: We too have failed to designate a permanent nuclear repositories.  Plainly said, after 50 years of producing nuclear waste, we still don’t have a NUCLEAR WASTE REPOSITORY despite lip service by several administrations to remedy the problem.  In fact everyone says yes but, “Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY)!”

POLITICS OF YUCCA MOUNTAIN:  The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, was built at a cost of $13.5 Bn, and  is located in Nevada, but was never used , or is likely to be used, given the opposition of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).  Political will has been non-existent.  All important politicians say: “Not In My Back-Yard” – After all they must be reelected if they wish to continue to “serve the people of their state”.  Such was the case with Sen Reid (D-NV) ; Likewise, by his failed political opponent, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, even though she advocated expanded nuclear energy. Soon after taking office, Pres. Obama made it his mission to ensure that Yucca Mountain would never open; Accordingly, DOE Secretary Steven Chu, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the site, and the Obama administration has tried to cut its funding. Legal challenges to the Yucca decision are pending.  If the Yucca mountain plan IS dead, the government has to find a new site and, the ultimate cost almost certainly will rise.

WE WANT OUR “WASTE FUND MONEY” BACK! Says the “National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners(NARUC)”, which represents State Public Service Commissioners, is suing DOE for simultaneously rejecting Yucca Mountain as a waste repository, while continuing to impose the fee on nuclear utilities. On 1 Nov 2010, DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu said:There is no reasonable basis at this time to conclude that either excess, or insufficient funds, are being collected, and thus we will not propose an adjustment to the fee to Congress”; Naturally, NARUC is not happy with Dr. Chu’s assessment.  NARUC spokesman, Rob Thormeyer said: “By articulating its current view that the Yucca project is ‘not workable’, the Administration is essentially conceding that there is no factual basis for any fee assessment in the first place; Yet, citing a congressional requirement for an annual assessment of the fee, the Administration contends that it has unlimited discretion to maintain a fee, even though said fee cannot be justified. This reasoning is tortuous as best”.  SO, THE NARUC FOLKS THINK THE ADMINISTRATION SPEAKS WITH A “FORKED TONGUE”;  Even so,  eventually we the public, will need to “pay the Piper’ for Nuke waste disposal -AGAIN!, Let me tell you why.

NOW THE BONE OF CONTENTION IS MONEY, A lot of money;  About $25 B collected so far by our utility companies, appears to have vanished, and no one knows for sure where it went, or where it is going;  Some say to the “The General Revenue Fund”.  Not surprisingly, the nuclear utilities that have been paying the fee would rather not do so. SAN ANTONIO’S NUKES, STP #1 & #2, PAY THIS FEE TOO.  It is this money, that NARUC, and their Lawyer friends want to get their hands on.  UNFORTUNATELY FOR US ALL: “It sounds like there’s a piggy bank, and there’s all this money that is available for a future nuclear repository, but there isn’t. Congress has spent it on other things.” The $25 billion amounts to little more than a federal IOU that will need to be repaid.  So said Richard Stewart, a New York University law professor and co-author of a book on nuclear waste policy.

SO WHERE IS DOE on this, their responsibility? – Mum is the word. I have written articles about the inscrutable Dr. Steven Chu Secretary of DOE.  He has been given the help of a “Blue Ribbon Committee” last Jan 2011 to look into the Nuke waste problem, and recently the Senate designated an “Assistant for Nuclear Affairs” to lighten his burden, or increase his efficiency.  Dr. Chu just pushes all help aside.  Recently, Damien LaVera, a spokesman for DOE said: “we fully intend to meet our contractual obligations for long-term disposal of these materials…we are committed to finding a sustainable approach to assuring safe, secure long-term disposal of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.” He also noted that the panel’s final report wasn’t due until January 2012. Oh well! – then we are in good hands.  DO YOU REALLY THINK?  I DO NOT.

THE BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON AMERICA’S NUCLEAR FUTURE, issued a draft report 29 July 2011 that said the U.S. nuclear-waste disposal program had “all but broken down” and suggested a series of fixes. One recommendation was an overhaul of what it called the “dysfunctional Nuclear Waste Fund arrangement”, The Commission was formed last year by President Barack Obama, after the administration’s decision to halt the Yucca Mountain project. The Commission includes former elected officials from both major parties, along with academic experts and representatives of industry and labor.  One of its proposals was to cut the annual fees collected from utilities, to match the level of federal spending on the program. Uncollected funds would go into utility-run trust funds, to be tapped when needed for the waste project. That would put the project onto sounder fiscal footing, the panel said, but would add to the near-term federal deficit because some of the utility fees would not be counted as current revenue. Still, the panel draft report said, “the bill will come due at some point,” because the government is contractually bound to remove the spent fuel. SOUNDS LIKE: Lets muddy-up the water, and let the next administration handle it, after all it is now traditional!  Some government we have! – That is the reason we are in the shape we are.

OTHER LIABILITIES/EXPENSES FOR  NUKE OPERATORS Beyond disposal costs.   Taxpayers are also potentially liable for damages suffered by the public from a nuclear accident, including those stemming from the spent fuel stored at commercial power plant sites. Under a 1950s law, Nuke Plant operators currently must carry $375 million of liability insurance for each reactor, after which an industry insurance plan would take over, covering damages up to $12 billion. Any personal injury or property damages in excess of that would be borne by the Federal Government.  Shades of Fukushima, but the problem is always collecting damages.  Just ask them.


August 11, 2011 at 1:49 AM Comments (8)