Nuclear waste dilemma

It is not on the top of anyone’s agenda, it seems, but it needs to be addressed. Maybe the newly elected Congress can fix the problem.

We’re talking about the continuing failure to create a permanent depository for storage of the highly radioactive nuclear waste that has been produced, and continues to be produced, by commercial nuclear plants. Without a plan, more than 100 nuclear power stations and properties where nuclear plants were once located have become de facto storage sites. Millstone in Waterford and the site of the former Connecticut Yankee plant in Haddam Neck are two examples.

No one should accept that as the solution.

Additionally, taxpayers and electric consumers are being ripped off.

Congress long ago directed development of Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a safe, permanent depository, ordering that it be ready for operation by 1998. Customers receiving nuclear-generated power were assessed a surcharge, $38 billion in surcharges in fact. Some of that money was spent preparing Yucca Mountain, some of it was diverted to other needs.

But for reasons more political than scientific, Yucca never opened. And when nuclear plant owners found themselves with no place to relocate the waste, and had to pay for storing it on site, they sued — nearly 100 lawsuits so far.

The courts have ordered the DOE to cover the costs of that on-site nuclear waste storage, about $7 billion and growing. Estimates of future liability rise to $50 billion.

Congress needs to approve the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act that would reactivate steps to license and construct storage at Yucca Mountain, but also allow removal of the material from the current, temporary sites before the permanent federal facility starts operations there or anywhere. Licensing of privately owned interim storage sites would get the spent fuel away from the populated areas where it is marooned.

The nuclear waste sits in blue and red states alike. Ratepayers and taxpayers of all states are paying the cost of this unresolved problem. If Congress and the Trump Administration is in search of an issue that should generate bipartisan support, this is it.

 

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 Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. 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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