The Heritage Foundation published a blog titled Less Is More for Energy In Bush’s Budget on February 4, 2008. The entry talks about the budget items submitted by the Administration for energy in 2009. Heritage likes the idea of spending large sums of money on Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) and likes the fact that there is an inclusion of an assumption of revenue from the production at the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), setting up another battle over the value to the nation of the possible 10 billion barrels of oil.
I am not a big fan of ANWR; if you think it will take a long time for new nuclear power plants to be constructed, you should also realize that no matter what happens it will be a long time before that oil starts flowing. Compared to our current consumption, the amount will be a small trickle, but it will be a profitable trickle for the companies selling the oil.
Anyone who reads Atomic Insights with any regularity also knows that I am not a fan of the idea of CCS. When you burn coal, you produce CO2, which weighs about 3.5 times as much as the original coal. More importantly, CO2 is a gas that takes up incredible amounts of space compared to the original coal – I see no prospects that it will be possible to capture and store more than a small fraction of that waste product over a long term. I also believe that Heritage is being a bit inconsistent by supporting research that is merely a subsidized investigation of how large, wealthy companies that are currently selling a product that has been determined to be causing planet changing damage can continue to sell their product without any new costs for cleaning up the waste.
The Heritage Foundation also had this to say about the Yucca Mountain project.
On the nuclear energy front, the budget funds an assortment of programs. While some are necessary, as a whole they continue to perpetuate government dependence by the nuclear industry. Some of these programs, such as funding for Yucca Mountain at $495 million, are critical to the nation and should be fully supported by Congress. Whether spent fuel is placed at interim storage, is recycled, or left on site, the nation still will need a facility in which to place its radioactive waste.
Heritage’s blog appears to accept comments, so I wrote one, but when I tried to post it, I got a WordPress error telling me that I needed to be logged in to post a comment. Since I did not see any place on the blog to register for a log in, I decided that I would simply place the comment here.
Originally intended as a comment to be posted as a response to Less Is More for Energy In Bush’s Budget.
While I agree that the federal government should reduce its involvement in activities that increase dependence by industry on government, I must disagree with the way that you characterize the need for Yucca Mountain.
It is an unnecessary expense to drill additional holes into the mountain or to take the time required to prepare and submit a license application. The standards by which federal law has directed the NRC to evaluate that license are rigged in favor of those who will seek to use the courts to stop progress. The license application process will take scarce NRC resources away from the reviews of all of the new plants and it will not result in a solution to the question of what to do with used nuclear fuel.
Instead, the money that the government has been collecting to provide the service of used fuel storage should be returned to the people who have paid the bill, since the government long ago defaulted on its contracted responsibility.
There is no technical or safety reason why used fuel cannot reside in above ground storage containers on site for the indefinite future. The NRC has already licensed appropriate containers, their cost is predictable and adds a very small percentage to the cost of producing nuclear electricity. Keeping the resource above ground, where it is easy to monitor and recover is the right way to go at this time in the technology development.
One area that I would like lawmakers to attack is the license review fees that the NRC has been directed to impose to do their work. Most of the companies that have actually paid the fees have done so with the help of politically directed funding from the DOE. The rest of the companies that would be interested in pursuing nuclear power projects must somehow come up with tens to hundreds of millions of dollars up front, just to get their designs approved.
The current fee structure is a quiet form of protection for the established firms. The NRC should be a safety conscious regulator that treats all designers and developers fairly, not a barrier to entry that favors the companies that goofed up the First Atomic Age.