Yesterday, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry toured the Yucca Mountain site to get a first hand look at the current state of the facility. Following the site tour, Sec. Perry met with Gov. Brian Sandoval. Here is what the Department of Energy press release said about that conversation.
“Governor Sandoval and I had a frank and productive conversation, where he expressed his appreciation for my visit and reiterated his opposition to the proposed project. We have worked on a variety of subjects over the years. I value his friendship, leadership and look forward to staying in contact on this and other issues in the years ahead.
“I thanked him for the long and storied history the state of Nevada has had in our nuclear and defense industries. I stressed the need for Nevada to maintain its key role as we seek sensible, stable, and long term solutions to fulfilling our responsibility to safely manage spent nuclear fuel.
I hope the site tour guides pointed out how much work and expense remained before the facility would be ready to accept any shipments. I also hope that they reminded Sec. Perry about the limited transportation infrastructure that services the site.
Before any large scale shipments can begin, there will be a need for a specialized rail line that can deliver large used fuel transportation casks to the repository; a decade ago the estimated cost for that system was greater than $3 billion.
Though Sec. Perry met with the Nevada governor, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that members of the state’s congressional delegation expressed consternation that they were not given sufficient prior notice of the visit and were not able to arrange meetings between Perry and the numerous opponents to restarting the project.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said she was “troubled that the new Energy Secretary is visiting the site without informing members of the Nevada congressional delegation.”
Earlier this year, Titus wrote to Trump to request that his administration visit Nevada and meet with experts who have studied the issue. She said reopening the site “imperils our state and nearly every congressional district in the country.”
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., whose congressional district includes the Nye County site, said they were notified over the weekend that Perry would be visiting the facility.
Skilled negotiators can recognize when the best course of action is to start from scratch instead of attempting to push forward with a no-win situation out of pure stubbornness. The Yucca Mountain site is burdened with both political baggage and a fatally flawed regulatory framework that is based on achieving absurdly low radiation release standards over an almost impossible to predict period of time.
There are reasons to hope that Sec. Perry will recognize the nature of the current situation and find a course of action that is less costly, less fraught with controversy and easier to implement. It’s not necessarily a popular statement among my type A, workaholic friends, but sometimes quitting is an option. Taking the easier path to solve a nagging problem can be rewarding, especially when it frees up valuable resources to address more interesting and important issues.