So sayeth the Obama Administration in its latest budget. They are slashing back funding to the program that aimed to build our nations first central depository for nuclear waste. Pushed hard by the Bush Administration, Yucca Mountain generated controversy from the start. The state of Nevada wasn't too keen about the idea of having a major nuclear waste dump in its borders. States next to Nevada and those along major routes of travel between nuclear plants and Yucca were not happy about trucks and trains passing through loaded down with nuclear waste. John McCain got into a little bit of political hot water last year when he said that he supported Yucca but would never allow waste to be transported through his home state of Arizona (a neighbor of Nevada).
What does this mean for the nuclear energy industry?
For one it will make it even harder to build a new nuclear plant. On site storage of nuclear waste is costly and a hard political football to push through on the local level. It's a lot easier to vote for a proposed nuclear plant for your state or town when you know the waste is being trucked to far-off Yucca Mountain.
Killing Yucca Mountain doesn't get us off the hook with nuclear waste. There are still 57,000 tons of it spread out over more than 100 temporary storage sites around the country. Another 2,000 tons is generated by nuclear plants every year. Nuclear waste lasts a LONG time, and sooner or later we are going to have to figure out what to do with it all.
But for now, to the delight of Harry Reid, it won't be solved in Yucca Mountain.
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