GAO: Shutdown of Yucca Mountain Was Political

by Greg Pollowitz

From the New York Times’ “Green” blog:

The nation’s vast stockpiles of nuclear waste never made it to Yucca Mountain, but the now-defunct $15 billion project is still radioactive — politically, that is.

In 2009, the Obama administration withdrew a construction license to complete the Nevada repository, then zeroed out funding for the site, laid off workers and shut down the project’s offices in Las Vegas. Republicans challenged the move, calling it driven by short-term political calculations, not concern over the site’s suitability for waste storage.

Grilled by Congressional inquisitors earlier this month, Gregory B. Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — and a former top aide to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, an ardent opponent of the project — denied that the decision was driven by politics.

“It was in no way a political action intended to reference any political figure or direction from any political view,” Mr. Jaczko said.

But a report on the Yucca Mountain shutdown released this week by the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan federal watchdog agency, appears to reach a different conclusion. The report, commissioned by House Republicans and issued on Tuesday, found that the Energy Department’s “decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository program was made for policy reasons, not technical or safety reasons.”

The report further noted that the shutdown of the project could set back the creation of a long-term nuclear waste storage site by several decades.

Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has opened an official investigation into the Yucca Mountain shutdown, called the report’s conclusions alarming.

“The ongoing situation in Japan further underscores that our national security demands a coherent nuclear policy to safely and permanently store spent nuclear fuel,” Mr. Upton said in a statement.

The rest here.

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