Chairman Macfarlane refuses to recuse herself, saying she is impartial about Yucca Mountain
Nye County, NV, the local community that would host the Yucca Mountain used nuclear fuel repository if is completed, really wants the facility to be built. The leaders of the county and the people that continue to select them as their representatives recognize that the facility would generate hundreds of well-paying jobs without imposing an unreasonable risk on the community.
The State of Nevada disagrees. This dispute between the local people and a remote state government is one of the reasons why the “consent-based” approach proposed by the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future is fraught with predictable pot holes and opportunities for the erection of impassable road blocks.
One of the impassable road blocks with the currently selected location is the Senate Majority Leader, who has managed to install two hand-picked Chairmen of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a row. Though Chairman Allison Macfarlane is far more collegial and pleasant to be around than Chairman Greg Jaczko, she is still quite firm in her conviction that Yucca Mountain is not the right place to store used nuclear fuel. She has even written a book supporting her conclusions.
However, she recently denied a motion by Nye County to recuse herself from any Commission decisions related to Yucca Mountain. Here is a quote from her statement explaining that refusal:
Nye County’s Motion for Recusal is premised upon the mistaken notion that I have somehow prejudged DOE’s license application. I can state without hesitation that I have not prejudged the technical, policy, or legal issues in this adjudicatory proceeding, and that my expertise will enhance the Commission’s deliberations and decision-making. In fact, I have not looked at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) license application, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff’s safety or environmental reviews, or considered how to apply the law or NRC regulations to determine the adequacy of the application, and I have not made up my mind on any of the issues raised by the application.
I realize that there is some wiggle room in that statement because Chairman Macfarlane may very well have not made any judgements about the specifics of the DOE license application. She is most likely being absolutely truthful when she states that she has not even looked at the application or any of the associated work done by the Commission staff.
However, those statements gloss over the fact that Macfarlane has already made a decision, based on her own independent research and judgement, that used nuclear fuel should not be stored in the Yucca Mountain repository. She explained her position to me during an Atomic Show interview conducted on June 15, 2007.
This part of the conversation can be found at time stamp 53:56. Here is a quote from the written transcript of that interview:
At Yucca Mountain. The one at Yucca Mountain. Yeah, but in general, and we say this outright in the beginning of the book that we think that repositories are the solution to the problem of nuclear waste.
Where should they be?
Where should they be? In a place that is not seismically or volcanically active and in a place that offers a reducing chemical environment.
Reducing chemical is like?
No oxygen present. Usually it means below the water table. And the rest of the world is going to be doing that. And Yucca Mountain violates two of what the IAEA has pointed out are four siting criteria, so it wasn’t a good choice.
Chairman Macfarlane made her decision about Yucca Mountain many years ago; there is nothing in any record that indicates that she has reconsidered that decision or that she will accept evidence that refutes her opinion. Even if she has not looked at the specifics of the DOE license application, she clearly has determined that Yucca Mountain is not the right place for a repository. Recusal is the proper course of action if she has any respect for the American system of judicial decision making.
Here is how Chairman Macfarlane attempts to explain and justify her decision.
Indeed, it is often precisely because of their knowledge of and intense involvement in a specific regulated field that persons are appointed to lead regulatory commissions and, ultimately, to issue adjudicatory decisions with respect to issues arising in that field. Accordingly, Commissioners have consistently considered the issue of recusal not simply by inviting litigants to peruse past writings and speeches in an effort to identify disqualifying knowledge or views about a particular issue. Instead, the relevant inquiry has focused on whether a particular Commissioner possesses knowledge from an extrajudicial source and that knowledge has served or threatens to serve as the basis for a judicial decision, or whether judicial conduct demonstrates a pervasive bias or prejudice. These considerations reflect the fundamental principle that a Commissioner “should disqualify himself only if ‘a reasonable man, cognizant of all the circumstances, would harbor doubts about the judge’s impartiality.’”
The first emphasized statement in the above quote is true in this case; it is obvious to nearly every observer that Chairman Macfarlane received the strong support of Senator Reid “precisely because of” her intense involvement in the effort to stop the placement of used nuclear fuel into the Yucca Mountain repository. It certainly had nothing to do with her technical expertise associated with the operation of nuclear energy facilities, radioactive source material, or nuclear safety. With regard to the second emphasized statement, this reasonable man harbors grave doubts about the judge’s impartiality.
Aside: I will admit that there are some people who consider me to be quite unreasonable in my unwavering support for the continued development of nuclear energy in the United States and around the world. End Aside.
Even though I support the importance of enforcing existing laws until they are changed, I am still convinced that the United States made a grave mistake in
1976 1977 when it decided to turn a temporary pause into a permanent moratorium and put the nascent used fuel recycling industry out of business. Without that fateful decision by a president who falsely advertised that he had been trained as a nuclear engineer by the US Navy, we would never had needed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and there would never have been any effort to “screw Nevada” by selecting it as the site for a permanent repository for lightly used fuel.
We would be well on our way to developing an economy based on more abundant and less polluting fission fuels instead of hydrocarbons. It is not too late for the current Administration to announce its enthusiastic support of used fuel recycling. If they did that, I’m pretty sure that most nuclear advocates would stop trying to spend tens of billions of dollars to move valuable material from many safe places located near appropriate industrial infrastructure to one reluctant, remote, but also acceptably safe location.
PS – It will be interesting to watch today’s Energy and Commerce Committee hearing to see how Chairman Macfarlane responds to questioning about the NRCs plans to adhere to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
Correction (October 28, 2013) An earlier version of this post included an historically inaccurate description of the decision to halt used fuel recycling. The date of that decision was corrected to 1977 and the sequence was clarified to indicate that there was a temporary pause implemented in 1976 that was made permanent in 1977.
The Yucca safety ealuation reports were at the point of fruition. Dr J managed to hide them and suppress evidence in them.
Cause for a lawsuit ? Now we know why Reid setup a legal fund for the former NRC Chairman.
So Allison Macfarlane. You have 11 million and you are seeking advice as to how to restart the process? But is that not your job ? Why spend money on a dog and poney show? People within the NRC know how to restart this process, they get paid for that.
Here’s the right thing to do:
After all this money spent, get the Yucca safety evluation reports out. Tomorrow. I think 11 million should cover the charges of all required comittees.
If Apostolakis had NOT recused himself (honorably) in this same matter three years ago, we would not now be having this conversation:
A two to two tie resulted, which Jaczko interpreted (dishonorably) in his favor.
A good summary of the legal background up to 2010, and a definition of the legal requirement for recusal: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1020/ML102000292.pdf
Wow, that’s a lot of words just to say, “Nye County’s Motion for Recusal is premised upon the mistaken notion that I was appointed as Chairman of the Commission for any purpose other than to make sure that Yucca Mountain stays dead.”
Macfarlane should drop the science biz and enter politics (oops … oh yeah, she already has 😉 ). Apparently, she has one of most useful characteristics that a politician can ask for … a very poor long-term memory.
First Fukushima. Then Yucca.
Macfarlane has plenty of toys to keep everybody’s focus out of certifying nuclear reactor deisgns (EPR etc) and issuing COL.
It will be a magistral 5 year tenure for yet another anti nuclear NRC chairman.
@Rod: I agree with much of what you say, including to the point of disagreeing with Dr. MacFarlane’s off-handed assessments of Yucca Mountain’s suitability as a geologic repository. (I’ve read the SER released in 2002, and I’m fairly convinced based on this limited view that YM is capable of meeting the NRC & EPA licensing requirements.)
However, I think you’re being unfair on two fronts. First, while I don’t dispute at all that her political patrons (i.e., Harry Reid) have supported her for her public opposition to Yucca Mountain, she does not completely lack for relevant technical credentials, particularly in this case. It is unfair to imply otherwise.
Second, the standard for recusal is much higher than simply having a stated public opinion. Read through Nevada’s opposing motion (I can send it to you offline if you need it) to Nye County’s motion for MacFarlane to recuse herself, wherein they cite the case of NRC Commissioner McGaffigan’s rather public statements about the (lack of) credibility of NIRS. NIRS tried to have McGaffigan recused on the basis of publicly spoken opinions (McGaffican frequently remarked that they should be called the “Nuclear Disinformation and Resource Service”).
What the courts found in the case of McGaffigan was that “[a] party cannot overcome this presumption [of objectivity and fairness] with a mere showing that an official ‘has taken a public position, or has expressed strong views, or holds an underlying philosophy with respect to an issue in dispute.” This is a higher bar than simply demonstrating a strong prior opinion, which is the standard you are laying out. What it requires instead is evidence that the party (in this case, MacFarlane) is so overwhelmingly biased that she would be unable to consider the evidence as presented in the NRC technical analysis as to Yucca Mountain’s predicted performance.
To be honest, I don’t think that higher bar can be met. And I say this even though my initial feeling was that I’d prefer MacFarlane to recuse herself – I very much doubt we’re going to see any surprises from her. The problem is, case law pretty clearly says the benefit of objectivity persists unless a much higher standard of evidence for bias than simply having prior opinions.
Was McGaffigan specifically appointed to the NRC to prevent NIRS from being an effective intervenor?
Now the reasons why Macfarlane was appointed chairman of the commission over many other qualified candidates — including all of the sitting commissioners — can be debated with much speculation, but … jesus, man … are we really suppose to be so naive as not to see what is going on?!
Sometimes wrong is just wrong, and there is nothing unfair about pointing that out!
Sorry … I misspoke. I should have written, “many other more qualified candidates.”
That the official offices of the state get abused in this way by the cynical and the greedy makes me sad.
I sincerely agree with “The Onions” recent article, “Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria”. And we could send all the folks appointed for political reasons instead of ability as well.
A cheerleader for contradiction, Rod? Why continue to bark up the wrong tree? Your post appears to be at odds with itself.
Yucca is exactly the kind of proposal that continues to pile mistake upon mistake and keeps the government in charge of a process that is going nowhere, does not have the confidence of the public or the industry, and has little to no reasonable path for success.
Meanwhile, current bills are pending in Congress that recommend exactly the approach you wish would have been taken in 1976: support for an independent and federally chartered fuel recycling industry to better manage spent fuel on interim and permanent basis, and in a way that is more consistent with global industry standards and lessons learned over the last 40 years (and with a reasonable path of success … especially when it comes to long-standing short term goals).
So why not get on board to something that is going somewhere, rather than remain on the same old sinking ship (that is going nowhere). Captain has to go down with the ship?
Well, not surprisingly, EL/Idyl is off in his own little world again.
The license application was completed by the DOE and submitted to the NRC. That’s hardly “going nowhere” (unlike the failed US solar industry). By law, the NRC had four years (3 + an optional 12 month extension) by law to review it. Sadly, the Obama administration has consistently considered US federal law to be nothing more than a nuisance and an obstacle to crafting a government ruled by executive fiat alone, so naturally, the law was broken.
The application was submitted in 2008. Had the law been followed, the license would have been granted by now.
The US public has confidence. Otherwise they would demand that their representatives change the law. The public that lives near Yucca Mountain has confidence. As Rod points out, they have consistently supported the project. They want it in their back yard.
The loudmouths who live in Las Vegas, however, do not constitute “the public.” I notice that they have suffered more than most places in the US over the last five years in the current failed economy, and frankly, the schadenfreude that I get from knowing this is quite pleasant indeed.
The nuclear industry trade group, the NEI, has always supported Yucca Mountain and still do. If “the industry” doesn’t support it, why does their trade group and lobbying arm do?
Success is only three or four years away with the NRC actually reviewing the license application, as they are required to do by law — even the courts now agree — and granting the license.
That is so “reasonable” that I can understand why an irrational person such as yourself has problems with it.
….unlike the failed US solar industry…
It failed because it tried to produce in the US. And of course that fails, as that cannot compete against China, Taiwan, etc. unless you have fully automated factories.
It is the same technology as the chips & computer industry.
So development in US, and production in low wage countries.
Not only chips, but even complete systems such as the iPhone are produced in China.
I compliment the development progress in US. Especially regarding high yield PV-panels. Much faster / better than in the EU!
Bas – Well, you can be very cavalier about their failures, because it wasn’t your tax dollars that were completely wasted as a result.
The situation is far more complicated than you describe, however. Yes, it’s true that it is easier to produce near worthless junk like solar panels when labor costs are low and environmental protection regulations are almost nonexistent (“renewable” advocates have no problem with the pollution created to make their precious toys, as long as the pollution is over there in China). But you left out recent circumstances, which I have pointed out here before.
Poor planning by the Chinese government resulted in a large overproduction of solar panels that China could neither use nor sell overseas at market prices. So they dumped these panels on the world market, which had two effects. First, it sunk nascent panel manufactures in other countries, like the US, who couldn’t compete at the undercut prices. Next, it caused a near orgasmic euphoria in “renewable” advocates who — carefully watching the trends, but not understanding the dynamics — were led to conclude that the promised land of “cheap solar” had finally come. Hallelujah! Praise the maker (of solar panels)!
In any case, we’re talking about public confidence, and I fail to see how anyone with any sense could have any further confidence in the US solar industry. Thus, the US government should stop wasting my tax dollars on it.
… fail to see how anyone … could have … confidence in the US solar industry … US government should stop wasting my tax dollars …
Those US tax dollars contributed to raising the yield (=electricity output/radiation input) of solar panels from a few percent to the present standard of ~15-20%!
While lowering the costs per produced kWh by a factor 10 in the past 30 years.
That is great progress.
Advances towards >30% yield will be reached while costs (per kWh) will be lowered another factor 2 within the next 10 years, if US government continues to support these successful developments.
Compare with Nuclear. Since the sixties no significant successful new developments, despite spending a lot more government money than into solar. So that was a waste of tax dollars.
Worse, nuclear electricity became more expensive.
So now even solar (especially if you take the ~40% import tax away) and wind are cheaper than new nuclear in most areas in the world.
Problem is that nuclear people often do not tell all important aspects of new projects. So the risks are not openly discussed and honestly evaluated.
I often read that development of a Thorium reactor (LFTR):
– is easy & fast (few years); and
– it will result in a cheap (in kWh) reactor with generation 4 characteristics (shuts down itself, if everything fails).
These two are both misleading statements, which one only discovers after reading the full Oak Ridge story, and questions himself why the Chinese (having all info from Oak Ridge) estimate at least 10 year development time and went to their ‘enemy’ India for cooperation.
So considering the historic results and the clear path that solar offers:
Why should US government invest tax money in nuclear (other than defense reasons)?
Investing in solar research delivers far more output.
Bas – I’m not talking about the relatively small amount pure R&D money that goes to labs and universities. Solar panel technology is very important for certain niche applications — e.g., satellites — so improvements in the technology have genuine value.
I’m talking about the billions of dollars that were wasted on companies whose owners were large contributors to the funds used to get the current administration elected. These companies went belly-up without accomplishing anything other than flushing tax dollars down the toilet. It’s still rather stupid to think that solar panels can provide more than a mere trickle of energy for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. I’m sorry for you that you still think that way.
You really, really don’t know anything do you? Geez … I guess Rod tolerates you here because you are the prime example of just how ignorant anti-nuke buffoons are. I guess every village needs its idiot.
“Since the sixties,” the nuclear industry in the US has taken capacity factors that used to be in the 60% range and increased them to beyond 90% — the highest capacity factors of any kind of electricity generation. Without brining a brand new nuclear plant online since 1996, the industry has managed to increase the capacity of the existing fleet — through power up-rates resulting from improvements in the technology — to an amount equivalent to several brand new nuclear plants.
Just the increase in generation from nuclear power over the past 20 years is more than the combined power of all of the solar panels in the US. (Aside: I have a friend who has conjectured that more power has been consumed to run websites promoting solar power than has been generated by solar power itself. Far from “renewable,” solar power is not even sustainable; it can’t even sustain it’s own propaganda.)
So while you quibble and crow over a few insignificant percentage points of something that is completely trivial, nuclear technology has made real strides that have yielded real results.
Yes … I’m familiar with the mantra used in the faith-based “analysis” performed by you and your fellow practitioners of the green quasi-religion. Nevertheless, just because you keep repeating the same lies over and over, that doesn’t make them true.
The “historic results” demonstrate that nuclear power is a solid, reliable source of energy. Solar panels are toys for rich eco-hippies. If they want them, they can pay for them themselves, not with my tax dollars.
What’s too hard to understand … it’s never going to happen. Administration has filed request to revoke license application, funding has been terminated, the establishment of the law was political (just like stakeholder strategy to defeat it), Feds are in court, the State is never going to approve the facility, there is unlikely to be a big government solution forcing an imposed resolution, and the NEI is playing both sides (and is active in crafting alternative legislation that has a practical and reasonable chance of success).
What’s confusing about this: we can take the easier path offered (the one where long standing and seemingly intractable problems get solved) or the more difficult path (with a strict adherence to inflexible rules and legal obligations already 30 years out of date and challenged on multiple grounds). If your interest is in a viable, flexible, and legitimate long term strategy for waste management in this country, I think the choice couldn’t be more clear. It apparently also meets Rod’s criteria for expansion of a nascent used fuel recycling industry. And NEI apparently thinks the same (and is supportive of new policy guidelines and in finding practical long term solutions to these issues). Given the current status of Yucca, it’s really not that difficult of a choice.
EL – The “easier path,” indeed the easiest path, is the status quo — doing nothing. It’s what we’ve been doing since 1982 for lack of a repository that was promised by the government. If this country can’t manage to get one stupid hole in the ground built next to a place where the military used to detonate nuclear bombs (for goodness sake!), why should anyone have any confidence that this country can do any better with any other path?
The technical issues have been addressed. The only obstacles that remain are politicians.
If history has taught us anything in the last 40 years, it’s that a nascent used fuel recycling industry is far, far easier to derail than a geological repository. Carter required only one term to kill nuclear fuel recycling in the US, and it’s still dead. It’s taking two terms for Obama to finish off Yucca Mountain, and he hasn’t quite succeeded yet.
There are a lot of leadership issues in the world. For example:
Why can’t Africa, as a contient organize, itself to have the carbon fuel stricken countries get nuclear power from funds origniating from the ressource rich countries? Also the World Bank has a mission that could help this happen !! These guys are inhaling.
Why can’t we get an end to ethanol production ? Because Big Oil is for it, dummy. Well ethanol production kills poor people by having corporate america take their land away from them to produce crops that will have no use for the local markets. Poor ? Food? Well catholic church (Pope?), this is happening in your growing markets. Wake up and fight (first sell your Vatican shares in ADM, and then fight) Also the UN calls ethanol production a genocide. I think the catholic church can fight genocides.
And one might be tempted to say: what about all the time this will require to pass the laws to reserve the trends. Well, the European Union went into ethanol production without due process. When they saw the $$$ associated with it, they took the fast track approach that does not exist for nuclear power.
I will write a letter to my archbishop. The Catholic church has the population behind it in a lot of countries where the ethanol crime is being committed.
Big Oil doesn’t care for ethanol. It’s Big Ag that loves it, and even has tailored grain strains to increase the yield or cut processing costs. This is why all the major grain-state pols won’t hear about cutting the RFS, and presidential candidates must genuflect to the farm lobby to have a chance in the Iowa caucuses.
Sorry. Big Oil is in on this. I will dig for some more info.
Not even close. Big oil opposes ethanol (taking cases to supreme court, lobbying Congress by API and others, fighting tooth and nail with EPA). It’s pretty much right there in their brand taglines.
Not even close ? My source is Rod that provided me with this article:
Here is a quote:
The most alarming aspect of the entire biofuel scam is the fact that three full years after the grain price explosion of 2008 was demonstrated to be directly tied to the biofuels removal of millions of acres of US farmland — from corn for feed to corn for fuel — no action has been taken either in the US Congress or in the EU or anywhere else to reverse that insane policy. The stunning inaction seems testimony to the political power of the biofuels lobby. Who are they? Not surprisingly, they are the same agri and oil giants behind US and EU food and energy policy. Major players include BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ADM, Cargill and the like. It is a powerful lobby and sees a goose that can literally lay multiple golden eggs in the form of mandated biofuels requirements of the EU and USA and elsewhere.
Apologies are required or not …
I am just happy to participate. Humbly and passionately.
There is a genocide and I am writing to my archbishop.
Big Oil ? You bet. Big Ag ? As well !
You’ll have to do better than that. The author of the article is confused (can’t do much about that). Refiners and producers have long opposed policies (not hard to find) to boost blending of oxygenates into fuel. This doesn’t mean they aren’t building facilities to meet state regulations and obligations for expanded renewable fuel standards.
Denial is not a river in Egypt.
Shell owns Raízen, a joint venture to produce biofuels from sugar cane in Brazil. With annual production capacity of over 2 billion litres – expected to double by 2015 – Raízen is one of the world’s largest biofuels producers.
Brazil has a biofuels based economy (the result of long standing Government mandates for blending fuel). Pure gasoline is no longer sold in the country. Are you suggesting Shell not compete there?
Big Ag part of the scam as well. I agree.
Biofuels are the 3rd red herring to keep people chasing lower power density systems as the replacement for fossil fuel.
I’ve seen a fortune in commercials and advertising obviously paid for by Exxon Mobil to be convinced otherwise. Clearly they favor touting and promoting Wind and solar as their main competition, but they push biofuels also, and spend a fortune doing so. Crimony, they aren’t even using a proxy in their ham fisted attempt to redirect the public’s attention away from high power density systems. Are you asking us not to believe our own eyes?
Who do you think builds the ethanol refineries ?
A lot of them are owned by ag conglomerates. Many more are owned by co-ops. Big Oil finds ethanol a headache for a number of reasons (vapor pressure and evaporative emissions are a major one, problems with emulsification being another) and would prefer to get rid of it not the least because it cuts into their upstream business.
Still big oil is part of the bio fuel lobby. Would you not agree now with the article just provided ?
No, I would not agree. Recall that BP once had a division making PV panels. This is not a serious business effort yet (if it ever will be). At best, it is precautionary ass-covering; at worst, greenwashing.
Here are some links to sources about Big Oil and their biofuels businesses:
Thanks Rod …
Another point rod – Its not just big oil playing the Biofuels game AND attacking Nuclear. Did you catch this Op-ed by a Pegasus Capital advisor back in 2012 ?:
Tamminen: Is Nuclear Energy Just Mission Impossible? ( http://www.cnbc.com/id/48163039 )
Pegasus acquired Pure Biofuels and has accelerated growth in its bio diesel holdings in Peru.
This also just was found in Peru:
Satellite reveals ‘hidden’ 1000-ha oil palm plantation in Amazon rainforest in Peru ( http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0906-hidden-palm-oil-plantation-peru.html )
dont get me started on biofuels, and I really wonder if equity investment firms are not playing a lot more games when it comes to bashing nuclear, pushing renewables and media misinformation. Terry Tamminen was also the former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency,
@John T Tucker
Agreed. Wall Street “equity” investment companies love to make billions by investing other people’s money into biofuels, just like they have generally enjoyed a similar relationship with multinational hydrocarbon investing. Those businesses are big capital projects that require a great deal of borrowed money. The bankers generally get their money out before the projects go south.
This just out in NYT: Wall St. Exploits Ethanol Credits, and Prices Spike
Where is our compassion for those who starve ?
…Why can’t Africa, … countries get nuclear power from … rich countries?..
Imagine the young Gadaffi of Libya, who brought down the Panam 747 airliner above Lockerbie, Scotland.
He then may have gathered the high level radio-active waste, grind it to dust, send it to US (e.g. using a private yacht or so), and spread it in Manhattan.
While that may not kill people in the short term, it will stop Manhattan during some time …
And leave the area with such scars that it looses its attractiveness.
A far more effective revenge, than the Panam airliner…
It’d be harder to spread than it’d be to vacuum up. Enjoy your fantasy anyway.
And what if Libya got their hands on thousands of tonnes of phosgene, which is waste from the photovoltaic industry? Phosgene causes cancer. Imagine how many could be stricken in Manhattan by a phosgene tanker bomb. Though no one would think to link it to the solar industry, no the solar industry is cute and we are not critical of it. Cute little panels, they cannot cause cancer. Everyone knows, only nuclear causes cancer, it is evil. Solar good, nuclear evil.
A case of, “Solatium in ignorantia” for you, entertainment for us.
Macfarlane was grilled to publish the Yucca safety evaluation reports
She refused. She is going to spend the 11 million on lip stick.
It would help if she spent some money on a new hairdresser, she looks like she stuck her finger in a solar-powered light socket.
Someone has the reports. Heard of wiki leaks ?
The NRC has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision. Macfarlane was asked if the NRC would appeal.
She declined to answer.
The Greens are not doing well in Germany.
If they are not needed by Merkel, expect a third 180 on nuclear before year end.
Merkel never made a 180 regarding nuclear.
She only postponed the closure of NPP’s in 2010, but continued to stimulate the growth of renewable. As she sank so much in the polls at the end 2010, she hurried to undo the postpone after Fukushima.
She is not the kind of woman that repeats such mistakes.
She now runs the most right wing / conservative coalition possible.
So regardless of the election results she will not be forced to it…
The political reality in Germany:
Stopping the ‘Energiewende’ is a non-issue. It is supported by all five parties…
The issues are:
– the speed; not 80% renewable in 2050 but 90% or 100% (greens);
– the costs; should there be a max. per household? Then, should old solar still get the old high Feed-in-Tariffs as those owners now get more than the calculated ~6-7%/a (lowering that, may deliver the money for the max. per household)?
This summer both discussions ended in; no change. But that may change.
NPP’s are a non-item in the elections.
I was never a big fan of geological storage of SNF. I think those of us who advocate for nuclear energy need to rethink their support for Y. Mtn. I think it’s a terrible fall back position on our side of the debate and represents a huge historical retreat.
This retreat is from the perspective of closing the fuel cycle. If we had a Federally funded program to develop full scale reprocessing of, say, several hundred tons of a year of SNF we could likely end the fuel enrichment program as a redundant exercise. We could reduce SNF stocks and provide a rich source of fuel for old and new reactors.
I believe this, not defense of Y. Mtn., is our proper course of advocacy. But…good blog anyway, Rod!
Do you think the path to fuel reprocessing is easier ?
Not so. Let’s follow the law.
Yucca Mountain is not ideal. However, no new licenses will be issued until the waste issue is resolved. So Yucca Mountain is a good short term goal.
Baby steps. And victories where we can make them, however small.
What are the economics on recycled fuel? I seem to recall reading somewhere that current market prices still favor the once-through fuel cycle. Is that still the case? If so, perhaps that will change in the future if demand for fuel goes up or scarcity occurs.
Daniel, who knows what is ‘easier’? Y. Mtn. doesn’t seem ‘easier’ at all, IMHO.
The French law on geological storage (introduced under the Mitterand gov’t by a socialist National Assembly member) demands that storage be a “two way street”, so that as techniques to separate isotopes become refined, that the French can ‘mine’ their geological storage facility (which they have yet to deposit much into since they…reprocess most of their SNF). Why don’t we fight for that?
For me, Y. Mtn. is this big-ass boondoggle designed with the legacy of the Carter’s FUD approach to reprocessing. Reprocessing, as the Russian and French (and S. Koreans and Chinese and EVERYONE else) understands is better at every level. The arguments about ‘ground water’ and ‘earthquakes’ and now ‘volcanoes’ is what counts for the Luddites.
I say we fight for what’s right and not about some ridiculous unnecessary compromise with the devil. But yes, I’m for following the law here and getting implemented what was agreed to. I’m also for putting it to the anti-nuclear community and ask *them* what they think is the solution. The reality, Daniel, is that they do not, repeat, do NOT want a solution. They WANT the SNF to pile up at 80 plants around the U.S. so as to make it bullet item to check off for reasons nuclear is so bad. That is what this entire discussion is about.
David – Why should we “fight” for something that is already in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA)?!
The plan for Yucca Mountain is that the “nuclear waste,” consisting of used fuel assemblies, goes into the mountain as is. The NWPA requires that all of this material must be completely retrievable for a period of over a century. So you put it in the mountain, and then if you figure out something better to do with it, you pull it back out again and use it. For this “mining,” no pickaxes are needed. It’s ready to go, and you might even be able use the cask it’s already in to transport it.
Rod’s main objection to Yucca Mountain is the waste of having to transport all of this material out to the middle of nowhere in Nevada and bury it. Yes, I agree that it’s suboptimal, but at this point other factors are more important.
The DOE has already done the scientific studies and the design, and they have written and submitted the license application. If McCain had been elected in 2008, the license would have already been granted by now.
What’s the alternative? Select another site and spend another couple of decades studying it before being able to even apply for a license? Move the stuff to half a dozen locations, which will need to be licensed and built — again taking many years of bureaucratic red tape and providing only yet another temporary solution?
Design, license, and build some sort of advanced reactor to burn the waste? Well, that’s a good thing to pursue, but realistically this will also take many, many years. Meanwhile, there’s no reason to ditch a perfectly good repository while we work on it. This is not an either/or situation. The licensing and opening of Yucca Mountain does not preclude closing the fuel cycle. Both are possible. Both should be inevitable.
Finishing Yucca Mountain does end one political problem, however. It finally gets rid of the albatross hanging around the nuclear industry’s neck: “What are you going to do with the waste?” Finishing the licensing process that has already begun is the quickest way of doing that.
If I understand it correctly, pyroprocessing can separate uranium by volatization (as UF6), then pull out Pu and higher actinides by electrolysis. This would leave the fission products, most of which have half-lives of 30 years or less. The bulk would be vastly reduced, and the heat load could be almost eliminated by storing in dry casks for a couple of centuries.
Long before that I suspect people would be clamoring for Sr-90 and Cs-137 for food irradiation, disinfection of both drinking water and waste water, and a host of other important uses. We don’t need Yucca Mountain, we need a warehouse.
Pyroprocessing has nothing to do with “volatization”; it is an electrochemical process that is conducted on metal alloy fuel.
For more details see Developments of Spent Nuclear Fuel Pyroprocessing Technology at Idaho National Laboratory
Ah, I have the fluoride volatization used in the MSRE (and proposed for LFTR) conflated with pyroprocessing, which appears to use chloride and not fluoride salts. All these similar technologies are so confusing!
Strictly speaking, the “pyro” stands for hot, as in, not water solvent based. In that definition, it’s anything from chloride electrolysis, metal-in-metal reduction-exchange, to vacuum distillation and fluoride volatility (the latter being less hot, but still well above water’s normal atmospheric boiling point). It seems that the IFR people have claimed the terminology as being part of the IFR type reprocessing.
Dr, Charles Till gives a detailed, but more accessible, explanation of pyroprocessing starting in chapter 8 of Plentiful Energy. The appendices then get into even more detail.
Tom Blees touches on it in a journalistic way in Prescription for the Planet.
@E-P – you really should put these on your wishlist!
This post correctly states at the beginning:
“Nye County, NV, the local community that would host the Yucca Mountain used nuclear fuel repository if is completed, really wants the facility to be built. The leaders of the county and the people that continue to select them as their representatives recognize that the facility would generate hundreds of well-paying jobs without imposing an unreasonable risk on the community.”
The principle of subsidiarity – that the people local to an area or jurisdiction have the God-given right to determine their own destiny without coercion or interference from outside pseudo-authority – is one with which anybody who supports liberty and individual responsibility ought to agree. As Pope Pius XI stated in Quadragesimo Anno:
“The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands. Therefore, those in power should be sure that the more perfectly a graduated order is kept among the various associations, in observance of the principle of ‘subsidiary function,’ the stronger social authority and effectiveness will be the happier and more prosperous the condition of the State.”
When it comes to nuclear energy (or virtually any other issue), that is NOT the philosophy of Chairwoman Allison MacFarlane or her superior, the President of the United States. If the local citizens want to build a used fuel repository, and can demonstrate its safe management, then by golly, even the Pope would say, “Let ’em!”
The problem is that a Yucca Mountain storage may have consequence that are (and stretch) far larger than the county or even the state…
So following your principle implies that the state and even Washington is involved.
A large, dinosaur killing size asteroid hitting Nevada also has consequences that will certainly (rather than MAY) exceed the state, and even exceed the USA.
The large asteroid hit is considerably more likely to occur over the next million years than any significant effect from Yucca Mountain, and the asteroid is certain to kill millions at least.
Rocks buried deep beneath you have no consequences for you. There will still be there when your great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandchildren have long died.
All those generations will have to worry about many things, including deadly earthquakes, deadly greenhouse gas concentrations, deadly floods, deadly climate fugitives. They would have to worry about traffic accidents which kill 1.2 million a year, at that rate it’s a million million deaths over the next million years. That’s a trillion traffic accident kills, projected into the far future (see how absurd it is to extrapolate?).
Fortunately, amidst the onslaught they would not have to worry about some rocks deep below.
Did you know that in the 18th century, they were actually thinking about horse shit repositories? They were worried that the streets would be piled in shit three stories high, so they were thinking about poo repositories. Thankfully they did not build a million year poo repository, what a shitty waste that would have been.
I love Cyril’s reply. BTW, there were four St. Cyrill’s in history, the last of whom invented the first Slavonic or Cyrillic alphabet. Sorry – I simply couldn’t resist. I am bad.
President Carter took office in 1977, not 1976. Any grave mistake in 1976 was made by President Ford.
“Even though I support the importance of enforcing existing laws until they are changed, I am still convinced that the United States made a grave mistake in 1976 when it decided to put the nascent used fuel recycling industry out of business. Without that fateful decision by a president who falsely advertised that he had been trained as a nuclear engineer by the US Navy, we would never had needed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and there would never have been any effort to “screw Nevada” by selecting it as the site for a permanent repository for lightly used fuel.”
You are correct. President Ford issued a temporary halt in 1976, Carter made it permanent in 1977.
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