Allison Macfarlane and Pete Lyons receive a dressing down for actions by predecessors
On September 10, 2013, the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Allison Macfarlane and the Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, Peter Lyons, spent almost two hours testifying in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They had been invited to the hearing room to tell the committee what their organizations were doing to implement the order of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to proceed with mandated action to review the DOE’s license application for the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository.
Each witness was asked a number of pointed questions; they provided few, if any answers, claiming that they were “collecting information” or waiting for responses for a call for advice on how to proceed. It was disappointing to hear Pete Lyons, representing the license applicant, state that his organization had taken no action. He stated they were waiting to be told what to do next by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Obtaining any license from the NRC is hard work; it is virtually impossible if the applicant is passive and simply waiting for the regulator to move.
Throughout the hearing, the representatives from both agencies repeatedly informed the Congressional committee that they did not have sufficient funds to execute their responsibility under the law. It was not until late in the hearing that I heard one of the Congressmen ask the question that I would have immediately posed – “if you do not have enough money to do your job, what you have done to request the necessary funds?” I’ve been involved in the federal budget process; though Congress authorizes and appropriates funds, it is the responsibility of the agency that needs the funds to identify their needs in their budget request.
In this case, it is also legitimate to ask the agencies why they do not have sufficient funds when they have expended the appropriated funds on purposes other than those for which they were appropriated. By disbanding the teams that were working on the license application and by putting the relevant documents onto optical disks to be stored in a safe, both the DOE and the NRC have made it far more difficult – and expensive – to complete their assigned tasks. Obviously, those actions were taken with malice and understanding that a task estimated at $6.5 million and 6 months would take FAR longer and cost more if a new team had to be assembled, trained and brought up to date compared to continuing with existing momentum.
Though I have never been a fan of moving valuable fuel material from its currently safe resting place to a remote location for permanent disposal – I think that is a waste of effort and a waste of an enormous energy resource – I am a big fan of democratic decision making. That process generally does not, and should not, include the ability of a minority to overrule the decision of the majority, especially in a case where the vote is not even close.
There was repeated mention of a “consent-based” approach, but it is not clear to me whether the people advocating that approach recognize that agreements in a democracy do not require unanimous consent.
I do not understand “states rights”, especially in the case of decisions that pay no attention to artificially drawn, imaginary lines that exist only on maps. Commerce in the United States does not stop at state lines, neither does water or air pollution. A great deal of land, especially in western states, is owned by the federal government to be used for purposes that benefit all Americans, not just those living in a particular state.
Nevada is a large state with a small population. About half of its land is ours, not theirs. It is still a wonder to me how our constitutional democracy has evolved to the point where an unscrupulous Senator from a tiny state with only 5 votes in the Electoral College can impose his will on the entire country. How did Harry Reid accumulate so much power? I’ve read about Reid’s background in “This Town” and still just don’t get it. Why don’t his colleague tell him to go jump in a lake when he tries to ramrod his agenda when it disadvantages everyone else? Can anyone explain?
Congressman Gus Bilirakis, the representative from one of the congressional districts where I have lived (Pinellas County, FL), correctly pointed out the discontinuity between the Administration’s claim that it supports nuclear energy and the legal decision that resulted in overturning the Waste Confidence Rule when the Yucca Mountain repository license process was abandoned. As Gus stated, and Macfarlane attempted to deny, the Yucca Mountain decision removed the court’s confidence that there was any progress being made on a permanent repository, which in turn invalidated the Waste Confidence Rule, required the start of a new, resource consuming process at the NRC, and stopped the awarding of any new licenses or license extensions for a period of several years.
Committee Chairman Shimkus is apparently passionate and well versed in the way that the torpedoing of Yucca Mountain removed the court’s confidence in the Waste Confidence Rule.
The last questioner at the hearing was Congressman Bill Johnson from Ohio. After the hearing I looked him up; I was not at all surprised to learn that he was a retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. It was evident from his demeanor and his focus that he had some experience in dealing with recalcitrant troops who had fallen short of accomplishing their assigned mission. I hope you enjoy watching his lecture as much as I did.
The documents may have been altered by Dr J.
Is this true ?
If so this is illegal And he should be prosecuted. In that regard someone at the justice dept is sleeping on the job.
The “Justice” Department has more important things to do, like revoking the asylum grants given to German home-schoolers and deporting them.
So, when the Executive branch is in one accord to disobey the law they can utilize all types of confusion, misdirection, slow walking, and memory failures, studies and on and on. No one person can be blamed but the group as a whole accomplishes the lawless purpose.
Folks, welcome to the 3rd world. This is the difference between 1st world and 3rd or 4th world countries. The determination to “get what I want no matter what it costs you” is the hallmark of failed governments. “Law, I don’t need no stinking law.”
I hope that the congress has more tools in their bag than I am aware of. If held in contempt of congress will the federal marshals arrest them?
Go Congressman Johnson! Wow … watching that was so enjoyable that I almost had to smoke a cigarette afterward.
And did Lyons really say, “we are already as a nation 20 years past the anticipated opening of Yucca Mountain?”
Sorry Dr. Lyons, but 2013 – 1998 = 15 years. Perhaps he doesn’t know that Yucca Mountain was supposed to open in 1998?! (Or maybe he’s just bad at math?) You’d think that, after eight years in top positions at the NRC and the DOE, he would know that little bit of non-trivial information, wouldn’t you?
That’s the problem with this administration: too many idiot sycophants, not enough independent thinkers. So nothing ever gets done. We live in a time of bread and circuses, and this is yet another circus. Although I must guiltily confess that I enjoyed this particular one.
I would have enjoyed it more if I thought the congress had the ability to enforce the law.
But it was fun to watch the dressing down. “Are you going to follow the law?” “Do you think that spending the fund on any project other than Yuca is legal?” “Will you commit to a monthly report to this committee?”
I just pray they have more than shame to apply here.
A fish starts rotting from the head.
Even if the NRC and DOE people are held in contempt of Congress, they can only be jailed with the cooperation of the Attorney General. Impeachment proceedings against him and his boss are long overdue.
Not really. I might be a bit foggy on it, but I seem to recall that contempt of a federal court order may end you up chillin’ immediately and indefinitely without any DOJ involvement whatsoever.
“Go Congressman Johnson! Wow … watching that was so enjoyable that I almost had to smoke a cigarette afterward.”
Hah! I agree with you wholeheartedly! Watching his questioning brought back memories of the consequences of a few youthful ‘misadventures’ I had during my time in the military. I couldn’t help but smile as Lyons squirmed in the face of such direct and repeated questioning.
“Although I must guiltily confess that I enjoyed this particular one.”
Join the club!
My heart went so all a-flutter, I’m getting a heart-shaped Bill “Big” Johnson tattoo.
And if he can actually browbeat those lawyered-up bureaucrats into obeying the law, I’m first in on a presidential campaign fund.
Bill Johnson give you a “trill up your leg.” Ok … to each his own. But did he say anything of substance? A trite civics lesson, a reading of prepared statements, a slew of interruptions. Par for the course from our House of Representatives. They aren’t particularly famous for their deliberative discourse or nuance in public policy. If you wish to see shouting, travel up to the House (a cavalcade of red meat and populist rhetoric put on display for media soundbites and single issue voters). Is he offering solutions, or just lots of “four letter words” heaped on political opponents? Sticking to long out of date inflexible rules is the sign of a bureaucrat, not a statesperson!
EL – No, Johnson is merely insisting on upholding the law. Believe if or not, some people think that this is actually a good idea.
Please understand that not everyone is like you. Not everyone thinks that laws are really just “out-of-date rules” that are meant to be broken as soon as one has found a more convenient “solution.” We have a word to describe people who think like you do, and it’s not “bureaucrat” or “statesperson.” Where I come from, we call them “criminals.”
But geez, EL … now that Primavera has mellowed out, you’ve assumed the dubious honor of being the most partisan semi-regular contributor to this blog. Congratulations!
Not really. One legal case leads to another. If it’s not about side-tracking the review, it’s about funding (a decision approved by Congress), compliance period (legal challenges and regulatory updates), or any other number of delays, revisions and legal challenges (from all sides).
The process has lost credibility, confidence of the public, and is broken. The President is correct (I believe), Yucca Mountain is no longer a workable solution. It’s political through and through. Heck … even some people here seem to no longer support it (as measured by some of the comments in these threads).
The most significant legal matter is that the Federal Government is obligated to take this stuff and do something with it. Until it does this, the industry treads water, court cases increase, and the costs for the taxpayer rise. And yes, this is an entirely unacceptable situation (for all parties involved). The real question is what to do about it. We have a fully bi-partisan proposal on the table with a sound basis behind it, a reasonable chance of success, support of industry, reflects global industry standards and lessons learned over last 40 years, and even has sufficient flexibility to adapt to changing storage and spent fuel needs (and the potential to win additional support in the future). And we have Yucca Mountain.
If Bill Johnson really wanted to make headway on these issues … perhaps the solution is already staring him in the face (and he could author legislation in the House that would parallel legislation already proposed in the Senate). Do you think his partisanship, and celebrated legislative support for the coal industry in Ohio has anything to do with it (or bills that he masterminded, such as the “Stop the War on Coal Act,” H.R. 3409). Perhaps? I’m not for delaying action on these matters. I’m for resolving them (and doing so legally and on a sustainable and constructive long term basis).
EL – Withdrawing a license application that is already complete, that has already been submitted, and that is required to be submitted by law, is breaking the law. People who break the law are called criminals. It’s as simple as that.
How can you be so f’ing stupid as to not see this very basic point?
As I have stated numerous times, dating back to some of my earliest articles in the mid 1990s when this publication was still a paper newsletter called Atomic Energy Insights, I am not a fan of spending resources to move used fuel from its current safe resting place to a spot in the Nevada desert that seems to have been chosen to maximize the total transportation distance and cost (aka revenue for contractors) required. I think the project has been an enormous waste of money since the start, but the source of the funds has been an acceptably tiny fee assessed on valuable, emission-free electricity. I have also been convinced that the mere existence of a licensed repository has value, even if it never accepts much material.
HOWEVER, I am getting more and more aggravated by the incomprehensible arrogance of Reid and his sycophants, all the way up to the President of the United States.
How in the world can a country as great as the United States SHOULD BE allow a tiny minority in what is arguably the most corrupt and criminal state in the entire country dictate to all of the rest of us? You realize, I hope, that Nevada has not produced anything of value for the rest of the country since the end of the silver boom. Instead, the whole state’s economy exists by encouraging activities that are illegal almost everywhere else. Sure, that requires some decent people to build all of the edifices, but look what happens when the disposable cash in the rest of the nation is limited by a recession.
It is common knowledge that “the Mob” has dominated politics and the economy there for many decades. How did we get to a situation where their boy runs things in Washington? Why do people tremble in Reid’s presence. I just don’t get it.
If there were any decision makers in Nevada – outside of Nye County – with a modicum of sense, they would encourage the licensing and construction of Yucca Mountain as a great job generator AND they would join in an effort to help the rest of the country learn how valuable used nuclear fuel really is. If they had any sense of how to make an honest living, they would promote Yucca Mountain as a mecca, and as a way to perform a valuable service for the United States of America. That way they could have a terrific, shiny new employer in the desert and not have to be seen as anyone’s waste dump. Hmmm, as I write that, I’m envisioning the election of a real leader that I know who lives in Nevada.
By the way, I am also getting really tired of the way that the opposition to nuclear energy insists on a completely misleading use of the word “dump”. There will probably never be any refuse anywhere in the world that is as carefully placed into its final resting place as the left overs from nuclear fission power plants. Dumps are places where waste is carelessly discarded.
Oh yeah – one more thing. The “long out of date, inflexible rule” that Congressman Johnson wants to enforce is called a LAW, duly passed by our democratic process and signed into being by the elected President of the United States. It has not been changed, which would require going through the same constitutionally identified process.
Throughout the hearing, Chairman Macfarlane kept referring to the need to complete time consuming and expensive bureaucratic processes and legal hearings that are required by the agency’s own internally generated RULES. Please tell me again which one of those two people is a bureaucrat and which one is an elected representative of the people of the United States. (A Congressman is not supposed to be much of a statesperson. That term is normally applied to national leaders that are engaged in international discussions, alliances and treaties. They need more flexibility than congressmen, who are also known as lawmakers.)
And Yucca mountain could be the Saudi Arabia of Gen IV nuclear reactors.
I don’t know if I coined the phrase or not, but you’ve inspired me to “recycle” this relevant post I did for Forbes about two years ago:
Fortunes are made when paradigms change. Words matter. The unquestioned cliché of lazy journalism that this material is “waste” needs to be continually challenged.
The fact is there remains vast amounts of energy in this once-used LWR fuel. The decay heat given off by the 3% of the material that are fission products, decreasing exponentially, is reliable and predictable to a fraction of a calorie per gram. In fact it is so reliable that no one knows how to turn it off! This “problem” is in fact a solution to any process that can utilize a constant source of low-grade heat over a period of several centuries. Some of the fission products are rare materials useful for medical diagnostics, radiography, or food preservation. And the recycled plutonium is NOT “weapons-grade”, but is quite usable in reactors. Get the politicians and fear-mongerers out of the way and send in the engineers:
Kirk Sorensen, “Is Nuclear Waste Really Waste?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv-mFSoZOkE
George Monbiot, “A Waste of Waste” http://www.monbiot.com/2011/12/05/a-waste-of-waste
The remaining 97%, consisting of fissile or fissionable uranium or transuranic isotopes, is capable of producing massive amounts of energy in Generation IV IFR or LFTR reactors (google them). There is enough fissionable/fertile material already mined, processed, and refined in the United States alone to supply this country with electric power for more than a century – if it is utilized properly, and not just buried in a ludicrously expensive desert tomb. Only the tiny percentage of the fission products that are truly unusable should be vitrified and safely stored at Yucca, and only a few centuries (NOT millennia) would be required before their radioactivity has decayed to background levels. This highly-engineered repository (not “dump”) could supply an all-nuclear America with thousands of years of storage space if used thusly.
It has been estimated that the value of electricity that could be generated from this “waste”, if utilized in Gen IV reactors, would be $30 Trillion: http://bravenewclimate.com/about/faq
If Nevadans are smart, they would not only charge a hefty fee for accepting the “waste”, but would insist on taking legal title to it, thereby positioning themselves as the Saudi Arabia of Gen IV atomic fuel.
@ Atomik rabbit
This phrase belongs to you. I took it from another blog where you had posted it.
No problem – use it in good health.
As I, and others, have borrowed “unreliables” from Rod to use when appropriate.
Now then… if you see an opportunity to introduce “windustrial sprawl” into a conversation, have at it!
If Nevada tried to corner the market on FBR blanket material, they’d find themselves pre-cornered by the owners of the DU tailings from enrichment plants. Both of them would find that the price of uranium went down quite a bit because 90% of the demand will disappear (figuring 20x expansion of nuclear power but a 200x improvement in utilization).
Nevada could have a very good short-term thing from selling reclaimed Pu as FBR starting charges, though.
A recycling industry would provide numerous high quality jobs and plenty of valuable material besides the actinides.
If they were really, REALLY, smart (not much sign of that yet outside of Nye County) they would add considerable value to that recycled material by building a lot of fast reactor generation using urban gray water (a la Palo Verde), Brayton cycle (such as the GA EM2), or air cooling.
In addition to supplying their urban centers at Reno and Las Vegas (Hoover Dam won’t last forever), they could supply the numerous nearby federal facilities and airbases, and most importantly, sell lots of power to California when their mandated unreliables aren’t doing the job.
eh….I’m not sympathetic to either of the witnesses, and they deserved every minute of dressing down they received, but I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Congressman Johnson’s diatribe as the rest of you: “We’re supposed to be on the same side: the side of the American people…” … give me a break. When you find yourself resorting to deconstructing idioms and common turns-of-phrase, it usually indicates you’re scraping the bottom of the barrell on actual substance.
There was also the point in the argument about what ‘site neutral’ transportation research means. I’ll have to go back and watch it again, but it seemed like Congressman Johnson was the one who didn’t understand it. He said “if it involves sites other than Yucca mountain it’s not site neutral”….isn’t that completely backwards? If you’re going to talk tough at a hearing, you better have your facts straight, or you’re just a bully.
Congress has nobody to blame for an over-powerful executive branch but themselves. Members of the last 6 congresses have wilfully and continuously abdicated their oversight responsibility to the point that they’ve become an utterly dysfunctional and irrelevant body, and there’s no sign of anything changing in the future. (And if you only care about this issue when your party is out of the White House, you can’t lay claim to some high principle because the reality is you’re just another partisan.)
Well, there certainly was quite a bit of grandstanding going on, but hey, what do you expect? The guy’s a politician, after all.
I disagree with your criticism, however, and I think that you weren’t paying attention to the context. Lyons was trying to lay blame for the lack of funds for continuing the Yucca Mountain license process on Congress (which he referred to as “your side”), when the administration’s behavior for the past four years is genuinely to blame for the situation that the DOE finds itself in today. If I were in Congressman Johnson’s shoes, I would have been pissed off too.
Oh please … Lyons was trying to dodge the question. That’s pretty clear. Just so that everyone reading this knows, the question was (and it was repeated several times): “Given the court’s order, do you still believe that the DOE is authorized to spend Nuclear Waste Fund money for purposes other than Yucca Mountain?” If Johnson was “bullying” Lyons, it was simply to get him to finally answer the question, and the answer is “no”; although Lyons still managed to hedge in the end.
The law is clear. You can’t take money from the NWF and spend it on looking at storing fuel in (say) Idaho or any place else. You can call it “site neutral,” but what does that mean? Nothing. It’s just bureaucratic doubletalk.
If the research is really “site neutral,” then conduct it with the purpose of applying it to Yucca Mountain, and if the results end up being useful for any other site then they can be used elsewhere at some later time. Anyone who has been paying attention, however, knows that this is not what the DOE has been doing. All of this “site neutral” research is being conducted with the purpose of ditching Yucca Mountain. Now that the court has spoken, money from the NWF cannot be used to pay for this without violating the law.
I agree with your point that Congress has abdicated its authority and somehow we are reverting back to having a puppet set of lawmakers run by a king be it an R or a D after the name.
That being said, I think Congressman Johnson was correct in trying to nail Lyons to the wall about the funding question. It appears from watching the video that DOE has requested Congress to grant them access to the Waste Fund for activities that have nothing to do with Yucca Mt. (site neutral).
Lyons tried to say that no, the DOE was only trying to maintain its R&D goals. HOWEVER, that waste fund money is NOT to be used for general, site neutral, or any other mumbo-jumbo terminology R&D. It is designated for activities directly related to moving fuel to Yucca.
So it appears that not only was Lyons trying to wiggle out of directly stating DOE will follow the law BUT Lyons appeared to be defending a budget request that would have shifted funds from its legally defined use into DOE preferred science fair type research projects.
Johnson saying that Congress has tools to make Yucca happen.
MacFarlane spent 15 months not undoing Jaczko’s shut down, not even putting placeholder money in the budget formulation – she, like Lyons, is continuing to advocate against following the Mandamus and they are both actively subverting the order of the court. In MacFarlane’s situation, that is enough to warrant recusal on YM matters, yet she refuses to do so.
OK. Maybe the House will start by a vote of no confidence in both MacFarlane and Lyons for their continuing recalcitrance and egregious failure to adhere to federal law. If they don’t wiggle, then commence contempt of congress proceedings. If they still don’t wiggle, hit them where it really hurts – take away their entire SES bonus pools, indefinitely, shut down Three White Flint completely, take away the limo services, blackberries, redecorating budgets, and every other perq that these unelected politicians are sucking from the marrow of the formerly independent NRC until it is the last place anyone would want to get a political appointment to. It is an agency that would be better of being run by the EDO anyhow, the Commission form of oversight has outlived its viability if its chairman can still go forward and humiliate her agency with such inanity.
And that’s how I feel about that.
And now the ultimate question. Where are the other commissioners ?
They went after Dr J’s throat. Is it that now that the pitbul is friendly but still goes against the law they are just happy to collect their pay check ?
They are spineless if you ask my opinion.
Daniel – Yes, they did, but their criticisms specifically addressed and were limited to only the “chilling” environment that his heavy-handed, borderline-sociopathic leadership style had brought to the NRC. The other commissioners did not challenge him publicly on Yucca Mountain or any other issue not related to what a total [insert epithet for male member here] he was being.
Thus, it is not surprising that they are silent now. It’s not their place to question the priorities set by the Chairman of the NRC. After the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, the Chairman was granted far more latitude in determining direction of the organization, which naturally, weakened the position of the other members of the Commission. C’est la vie.
But the Yucca safety evaluation were done. Dr J went and suppress evidence and scientific findings.
This is public knowledge.
That the other commissioners did not blow the whistle on this is shameful. Having a ‘chilled’ working environment and breaking the law ? I take breaking the law any day as my fighting motive.
Daniel – I’m not defending Jaczko. Besides, I’m sure he’s much happier now being an unabashed, full-blown anti-nuke, just like he was back in his grad school days.
Don’t forget, however, that this boondoggle began in the Department of Energy when they decided to defund the YM licensing process and attempted to withdraw the application with prejudice. What good is an evaluation of a license application that the applicant is (illegally) trying to withdraw and can never submit again?
It’s a lot tougher to demonstrate that Jaczko broke the law than it is to show that Obama and Chu broke the law.
Hmmm, maybe the SES bonus pool in both agencies could be used to fund the ongoing hearings? If there was less bonus money and sweethearting for their General Counsels, maybe the General Counsels would be less inclined to gin up delusional match-book legal advice.
The 10 empty floors of three white flint have plenty of room for hearings, no?
Maybe the WH science advisor budget could be used too, not that anyone in the WH wants to do more than pay lip service to the science.
But no, those are probably not a “viable” proposal, not the preferred “way forward”.
That’s a pretty good list of items that Congress can control to help a recalcitrant group of appointed officials understand their place in the pecking order. I would add removal of the travel budget for anyone other than technical experts; especially the budget that pays for any international travel. That would have the additional bonus of preventing our current iron pyrite standard from being imposed on unwitting nuclear novices.
Lest this turn of phrase slip past anyone:
hmmm. . . seem to recall Jaczko referring to NRC as the gold standard in regulatory world just before he started destroying it, is there a message in it now being labeled iron pyrite? In my book they went right past that: NRC is at the pond scum and compost level. Thanks Harry.
Yes, I am sending a message by calling the NRC — as it has been led since 2009 — the iron pyrite standard of nuclear energy regulation.
Hint for decoding – look up “iron pyrite”
Let’s be clear – most of the rank-and-file professional NRC employees are dedicated, highly-skilled engineers or technicians. A great many of them are NEs or ex-Navy nukes – they are by no means “antis”, but seek to enforce the regulations as they are promulgated by the politically-appointed Commission and the laws of Congress.
As demonstrated repeatedly over the last 200+ years, when ignorant or unethical people rise into leadership of those institutions, problems inevitably arise. Some of them take decades to unwind, if ever.
The question that went unnoticed is when Lyons was asked in the first interview if he trusted the science on Yucca done by the NRC.
He answered yes.
This is a setup jab.
There is also a bit of confusion from where I stand. Why is it again that COL cannot be issued?
I hear on one side that the courts made it so with their Waste Confidence Ruling.
But I think that it is really the NRC Chairman who decided to freeze unilaterally the granting of new licences over a waste issue that would least impact new plants. This is twisted thinking if it is the case.
From what I gather, Congress can only slap you on this wrist if you break the law.
Expect more of the same for the next 5 years.
Rats do not like spotlights. That is worth pursuing pressure by congress.
Not true. Congress has the “power of the purse” as a way to encourage the Executive Branch to behave. Besides, the NRC has been declared guilty of violating the law by a US court.
I don’t understand this “lack of funds” argument that keeps coming up. I thought an applicant for a license from the NRC paid fees that cover the costs incurred to process the license application. DOE is the applicant here, for a license to construct and operate the YM respository. I’ve seen various numbers floated around, but the ones that stick in my mind is the DOE has collected about $30 billion over the years to fund respository development, and has spent about $10 billion. By my cipherin’, that leaves about $20 billion in the bank. Surely the DOE can appropriate some of that to fund the license application. I mean, $20 billion ought to be enought to cover it, even if it is NRC and DOE involved.
Wayne – The money in the Nuclear Waste Fund is there for the DOE to license, build, and operate the Yucca Mountain repository, but it has always been, and still is, under the control of Congress.
Nobody but Congress can appropriate even a single dollar out of this fund, and this is part of the problem. If Congress had steadily and reliably appropriated funds for the project over the last 30 years, the repository would be not only licensed and built, but operating by now.
Anyone who has had any experience with the Yucca Mountain Project is familiar with the rollercoaster ride of budgets that it has had over the years. That’s no way to run a business, but then again, government is not business. There is no incentive to get the job done, as the complete failure of so many DOE projects demonstrate.
I know colleagues who are about to retire, and who have worked on government projects for almost their entire career, who tell me that they’ve never worked on a DOE project that manged to finish by meeting its goal.
So does Congress have to follow the laws they pass? Last I checked the NWPA was still the law of the land. It says that DOE must develop a repository, and Yucca Mountain is it. DOE has the money. There is no question about that, so this “lack of funds” argument doesn’t wash. I know to spend money it takes an.d authorization step and an appropriation step. If NWPA is still valid, Congress should follow through and perform those steps.
This is all just buck-passing. NRC says it doesn’t have the money. DOE has the money but says it needs Congress to give the OK to spend it. I know $11 million was put on the table. To me that seems like a lot but maybe for NRC it isn’t. In any case, there is money allocated, the courts say the law says the work must go forward. Something should be happening but evidently it isn’t. Maybe it will be in those monthly reports Lyons said he’d provide.
It was funny to see Lyons insist that he come before the committee only when he had something new to report. He did not want to come on a monthly basis. He nuanced the invitation a few times. ‘I will come when a have new stuff to report’
Right. I would have said: ‘In this case we will never see you again judging from your performance of the last 10 years!’
“I do not understand “states rights”, especially in the case of decisions that pay no attention to artificially drawn, imaginary lines that exist only on maps.”
You may be a pretty smart guy when it comes to operating nuclear reactors at sea. Too bad that you are dumber than a brick when it comes to the US constituition:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
“Why do people tremble in Reid’s presence. I just don’t get it.”
The power that offends you has nothing to do with Harry Reid. The highest law in the land is the US constitution. You should be ashamed for implying that the tenth amendment be ignored or that the federal government can usurp the rights guaranteed to states under our constitution.
Please reread your copy of the constitution. Well before you get to the tenth amendment, you will find that the constitution specifically gives the federal government the responsibility to govern commerce between the states. It is one of the powers delegated to the UNITED States that the tenth amendment mentions.
The energy industry is an important part of commerce between the states and should be adjudicated at a federal level.
I am well aware of the “Commerce” and “General Welfare” clauses. It is shameful that the federal government (with the backing of the supreme court) uses them to trample on state’s rights.
You mean like the time those nasty federal government types decided that owning human beings was a commerce activity that was rightfully under their constitutional authority to prohibit?
Rod – Wow! I don’t think that I’ve ever seen anyone put forward the Commerce Clause as a reason for why slavery was ultimately abolished!
So did Lincoln defer to the Commerce Clause when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation? No … in his own words, he stated that it was “a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion.”
If the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution was all it took to prohibit slavery, then why do we need the 13th amendment?
There sure were a lot of people in the rebel territories who spent time talking about states rights having been usurped during the run-up to their illegal effort to secede. BTW, I am a Southerner by birth.
It was definitely a part of the context and early efforts of abolitionists to petition government to live up to it’s own laws. How closely have you looked?
EL – Yes, exactly my point. Congress was perpetually unwilling to use the commerce clause to impose restrictions on the interstate slave trade. It was not much of an issue.
As for what the crazy radical fringe were doing, well, they were doing lots of things. I think, however, that actions such as seizing a US arsenal had a much larger influence on the emotions, tensions, and dynamics of the time.
According to Lightner, banning interstate trade was the second most pressing issue on abolitionists’ agenda (measured on number of antislavery petitions sent to Congress) in the early 1800s. It took up a great deal of time of the Taney Court (the Supreme Court), and Congress in the early 1800s. “Prominent antislavery leaders included Benjamin Lundy, David Walker, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglass urged Congress to ban the trade” (here). “… the single most successful abolitionist writing, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ highlighted the evils of the trade.” I’m not sure on what basis you are calling these debates insignificant and not much of an issue.
You previously stated you weren’t aware the Commerce Clause being used in efforts to end slavery. Now you are. The leaders were central to the abolitionist movement (not part of it’s radical fringe).
EL – No, that is not what I stated at all.
Rod claimed that slavery “was a commerce activity that was rightfully under their constitutional authority to prohibit.” I replied that I had never heard anyone make that claim (most likely because it is simply not true), and I pointed out that it took an amendment to the US Constitution to finally give the federal government the authority to prohibit slavery.
Even the efforts by the abolitionists that you mention do not use the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to prohibit slavery, but merely to restrict the transfer of slaves across state lines.
The abolitionist movement was the extreme wing of the Republican Party, much like the Tea Party is the extreme wing of the Republican Party today. Prior to the US Civil War, they were not at all part of the mainstream, even in their own party.
No it wasn’t. The abolitionist movement wasn’t a single thing, but many. Your ignorance is really compelling! It was well established in the North (it’s many diverse factions, origins, and traditions), many with Quaker and evangelical foundations, and southern Republicans saw the end of slavery through the lens of market forces (and free labor being superior to slave labor). They were a minority in the South (and akin to extremist and viewed as second-class citizens and outcasts in their social setting and milieu). Wiki summaries this history fairly well (at least contrasting significantly with your own characterization of movement). I recommend you look at it.
EL – Whatever, you pretentious prick. Naturally, I was referring to the abolitionist wing of the Republican Party — the ones who were disappointed with the nomination of the “moderate” Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
But please feel free to continue to misrepresent what I have written. It seems to be your favorite debating tactic.
No. The subject of your statement is “the abolitionist movement,” which you equate with the Republican Party. The two are not synonymous with each other. Most of us can read, by the way. If it is pretentious to do so, I stand guilty as charged.
After the importation of slaves was banned in 1808, restricting slave trade across state lines was a central strategy of the abolitionist movement (second only to seeking an immediate end to slavery as a practice). Not sure what you are suggesting to the contrary … other than to backtrack on your own statements (and exhibit a great deal of bad temper doing so).
Thank you Mr. Adams for all your efforts to keep us informed.
As a Brit I don’t take sides when talking about the 1861 unpleasantness between the states.
As a disinterested observer it strikes me that the southern states were in the right legally speaking when they decided to secede. However legality is trumped by force of arms so Lincoln’s interpretation of the constitution prevailed. In spite of Lincoln’s tyrannical tendencies I liked his Gettysburg address and especially this bit:
“…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Texas is considering seceding and this time for a much better reason than prolonging human slavery. Something like Scotland’s attempt to secede from the United Kingdom that had the effect of reversing the relentless centralization of political power in the UK. Sadly it did not reverse the relentless centralization of politcal power into the European Union.
Why is a Brit lecturing a career US military officer about the US Constitution? I took my oath very seriously and studied the basic documents underpinning our democracy carefully. One of the main reasons that the Constitution was written and signed was that the founders recognized the inherent weaknesses of the Articles of Confederacy and their inability to assist in the adjudication of disputes between the interests of states, many of whose boundaries had been artificially imposed by a distant monarch.
The most important part of the tenth amendment is the reservation of power to the People.
Of course, this is just silly talk, but even if we consider the hypothetical situation in which they attempted it, they would be fairly well-positioned to pull it off, particularly when it comes to Rod’s arguments about energy being an interstate commerce thing.
Texas pretty much has its own electrical power grid that is separate from the rest of the US. Add in what remaining fossil-fuel resources it has, and it is not doing too bad when it comes to energy.
This just out :
A bill introduced Wednesday in the US Senate and House of Representatives would reorganize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shift power from the chairman to all of the agency’s commissioners, the bill’s co-sponsors said in a statement.
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