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Nuke waste problem

It is great to read that several environmental groups are getting on board with the idea that more nuclear power construction has to be part of the mix if the nation is going to meet future energy needs while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

This newspaper is on record as supporting a revival of nuclear power, noting there is room for more reactors at Millstone Power Station in Waterford.

An Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the Waxman-Markey energy bill passed in the House shows nuclear energy generation more than doubling by 2050, if it becomes law. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing 22 nuclear-plant applications.

But there is one big problem - what to do with the nuclear waste that remains harmful for thousands of years. The Department of Energy spent two decades and $10 billion to conclude there is a scientific solution - underground burial in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Now, however, it appears Yucca is dead for political reasons.

Energy Daily, quoting internal DOE documents, reports that the department "plans to abandon next month its Yucca Mountain license application before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has done everything in his considerable power to kill Yucca. He found a supporter in the election of President Barack Obama. Some see this as payback for Sen. Reid's support for the future president during the primaries.

In any event, it's bad policy and a waste of money. There is also the fact that the government, under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, agreed to begin taking nuclear waste from utilities in 1998. To pay for it, DOE collected $30 billion from utilities (which, in turn, had charged customers). Utilities have won about $600 million in court awards from the DOE for its failure to take the waste. That number should skyrocket.

Indefinitely storing the waste at nuclear plants is not a solution; rather, it's a breach of law.

If Yucca is not the answer, the administration needs to come up with an alternative, and soon.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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