Patty in the News

Nuclear Regulatory Commission must do right thing on Yucca Mountain

Jul 02 2010

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will consider arguments about whether to reverse an administrative law panel decision that the Obama administration cannot unilateral end the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository project in Nevada. The NRC should not let the administration proceed.

WASHINGTON state ought to be encouraged by a federal legal panel's decision rejecting the Obama administration's effort to unilaterally scuttle the billions of dollars and years put into the long-term repository for the nation's nuclear waste. After all, that is where much of the nuclear defense waste stored at Hanford is bound.

Encouraged, yes, except for the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, rather than waiting for the U.S. Department of Energy to appeal the decision, apparently seems raring to second-guess its own Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The commission quickly asserted jurisdiction and asked for filings by next Friday.

Candidate Barack Obama promised to end the Yucca Mountain project, which flouts the intent of Congress and leaves spent nuclear fuel and defense waste stacking up around the country.

But the NRC's panel noted the Obama administration did not offer any scientific proof that Yucca was not a sound place for the waste but only said it was "unworkable."

Unworkable politically, that is. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has long opposed the Yucca site in his home state. Washington's own Sen. Patty Murray, an unfailing champion of the Yucca site, nailed Energy Secretary Steven Chu when he could not produce any scientific reason for the decision.

Three of the five NRC members promised not to get in the way of Obama's Yucca decision at their confirmation hearings. The fourth, whom Obama appointed as chair, was Reid's former science adviser and, when he joined the commission in 2005, voluntarily recused himself from Yucca Mountain decisions but only for a year.

The deck certainly seems stacked here. The commissioners should do their duty and uphold their board's correct decision.