Right message on nuclear waste
Savannah River Site already hosts a huge volume of nuclear waste, and a citizens advisory board said “no more” on Monday night. It was the right call, with federal officials looking for a location to pass off some 75,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.
In doing so, the board recognized that there is a diminished interest by the Obama administration to fund permanent solutions for waste management. Once a location is selected for “interim” waste disposal, it can expect to serve as the de facto permanent waste site.
As board member Ed Burke said, in comments quoted by the Aiken Standard, “If spent fuel is brought in, there’s no timetable for it to leave.”
Certainly, the administration’s actions regarding Yucca Mountain, Nev., have demonstrated a lack of good faith for high level waste disposal. President Barack Obama terminated the project unilaterally despite its decades-long development at a cost of $12 billion. And that decision apparently was made for a political reason — to bolster the re-election campaign of his ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Halting the Yucca Mountain project means there is no permanent repository for high level waste in the foreseeable future. That means the federal government needs an interim site to consolidate spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors. And there’s no assured exit for the radioactive material.
Even so, the board’s Monday vote was close, 12-10, to reject any disposal pitch from the feds. A minority of the board believed that SRS should keep its options open on additional waste, pending possible incentives that could bring jobs and investment. Reprocessing of nuclear waste is a possibility in the future.
Still, it’s hard to imagine what sort of real incentives the federal government could come up with to mitigate the disposal of thousands of tons of high-level nuclear waste at SRS.
The president’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has recommended the creation of consolidated storage sites pending the development of another geologic repository. The commission acknowledged that community support would be required before any decision on an interim storage site is made.
The citizens advisory board made the right decision, and should stick to it guns.
One board member cited the plummeting property values that would occur should SRS become a consolidated interim waste site.
And several local residents who spoke at the Aiken meeting backed a “no” vote. As one resident said:
“If you ask me if I want spent fuel in my backyard, I’m gonna tell you, ‘Hell no!’ ”
The citizens advisory board was less forceful in its position, but the message was the same.
There’s already a staggering amount of deadly detritus being stored at Savannah River Site.
More waste — who needs it?