Lost in President Obama’s rhetoric that the science is settled on climate change, the president is willing to shut down Yucca Mountain without scientific justification. Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) filed to withdraw the application for the geologic repository Yucca Mountain that was supposed to begin collecting used fuel in 1998. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 set January 31, 1998, as the deadline for the federal government to begin disposing of used fuel. More than a decade after the deadline, the government has still not settled on a policy for how to do it. The DOE established a blue ribbon commission to explore alternatives to long-term waste storage. The government’s ineptitude to begin proper nuclear waste management should be a reason to remove government responsibilities, not remove Yucca from consideration.
On numerous occasions (not Yucca specific) President Obama emphasized the importance of objective, transparent science, stressing that politics should not trump sound science.
President Obama in an Executive Memorandum on March 9, 2009:
Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.
The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. “
President Obama in a ceremony the same night: “Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it is also about protecting free and open inquiry.”
President Obama after announcing his top science advisors December 8, 2008:
Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology.”
It’s time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient.”
The issues surrounding opening Yucca Mountain are purely politically and not one bit technical. Yucca Mountain is the most studied geologic nuclear materials repository in the world. Studies have found that the Yucca repository could safely hold 120,000 tons of waste.
So we should listen to the science, except when it’s inconvenient to well-connected political leaders. If politicians eager to shut down Yucca Mountain are so confident that the science is on their side, why not allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to finish its license review? After, all, it’s the NRC’s responsibility to determine the technical feasibility of Yucca – even if it has been studied countless times.