President Obama is withdrawing funding for Yucca Mountain. a storage site for spent nuclear fuel that sits in the center of a desert mountain, 1,000 feet underground and more than 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Thorough geologic studies showed Yucca Mountain to be an appropriate place for the nation's nuclear waste. Instead, we now have storage spread over 121 above-ground sites located within 75 miles of more than 161 million people in 39 states.
In addition to Yucca Mountain, the nuclear waste problem is manageable for two other fundamental reasons.
First, just 5 percent of the spent fuel is highly radioactive fission products which can be separated by reprocessing as France does. That material is put into glass or ceramic cylinders for long term storage. The most dangerous radioactive elements in that 5 percent have relatively short half lives. This means they decay into other elements in a matter of months or years. The long lived products which radiate for thousands of years take their time to decay, and therefore aren't very radioactive, simplifying the storage problem.
Second, the remaining 95 percent of the spent fuel is 94 percent low radiation uranium and 1 percent plutonium, all of which can be reprocessed into new reactor fuel.
The spent fuel storage problem is serious but manageable at Yucca Mountain. The Department of Energy has spent $8 billion to develop Yucca Mountain site. Those funds came from the $22 billion that the nuclear power industry and its customers have paid in for a geologic storage site We now have a site at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
The issue there is political, not geologic.
Rolf E. Westgard
ROLF E. WESTGARD is a professional member of the Geological Society of America and an associate chair of the Crow Wing County DFL.
Obama's treasury choice
The Obama Administration announced a plan to aggressively go after the tax cheats. To head up the program, they made an ideal choice, none other than Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner. He should have no problem finding his first miscreant, all he has to do is look in the mirror. It developed that during his confirmation hearing, Mr. Geithner had neglected for five years to pay taxes on a source of income. He immediately jumped forward to do the right thing, and paid off the last three years of tax obligation. However he didn't pay for the first two years as the statute of limitations had run, showing his true Democratic Party colors. This episode gives new meaning to the old line of the fox guarding the hen house.
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