Published on February 20th, 2008 | by Max Lindberg
The Lindberg Report Podcast: Yucca Mountain Failure a Windfall for Nuclear Utilities
I was reading some recent headlines about Yucca Mountain, claiming the federal government will face heavy penalties and judgments if the project isn’t finished. Read beyond the headlines my friends, “we” fund the government, the money comes from our pockets, and it isn’t chicken feed.
The latest estimates are, that if Yucca Mountain isn’t finished until 2017, “we” will owe the utilities an estimated $7 billion in penalties, provided by law, because the repository isn’t finished. Bump completion time up another 3 years, and the bill goes up to about $11 billion.
When this repository thing started some 30 years ago, the feds agreed to dispose of spent fuel created by nuclear power stations. I’m sure there were some very good reasons for that decision, not the least of which retaining control over the stuff, which could fall into the wrong hands and become something very dangerous.
So the government and the nuclear industry agreed that if the repository wasn’t finished by a certain date, the government would pay the power stations for having to store their own waste until it was completed. Sweet deal, they create high-level, radioactive waste and taxpayers stand the expense of putting it away for millennia.
What that means Mr. and Mrs. taxpayer, and utility rate payer, is the federal government promised to have the Yucca Mountain repository finished ten years ago. Each day that goes by, the ante goes up for the utilities, and if the project is scrubbed, then what, will the settlement option still be on the table until a repository is completed? Another 20 years maybe?
Well shucks, why shouldn’t we help make the nuclear energy folks wealthy, after all, they’re providing a service we can’t do without. As a matter of fact, they want to build more facilities and create more waste. You know what that means, “we” get stuck with providing a “nuclear dump” and they get paid if it isn’t ready.
This is a ludicrous situation at best. Nevada doesn’t want the thing and I doubt any state would want it, but every thing’s gotta be somewhere, and since they’ve dug a five mile long hole in the mountain, they might as well fill it up with nuclear waste as planned. So every time Nevada Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) pressures Congress to dump Yucca, I wonder whose side he’s really on.
Ward Sproat, director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management for the DOE, told me in a podcast interview (Why Has It Taken So Long?) that nuclear utility rate payers are charged a fraction of a penny per kilowatt hour of electricity they use, to help fund construction of the Yucca Mountain repository.
That fund now stands at an estimated $21 billion, and Sproat told the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners that the project’s budget is $400 million a year. He is quoted as saying, “we are never, ever going to build this repository with that kind of cash flow funding; it just ain’t going to happen.” He believes that over time, construction costs will rise to about $1 billion a year until, and if the project is completed. Mr. Sproat also told me that he was required by law to send a report to Congress later this year, outlining the need for a second nuclear waste repository. That’s “second”, not a replacement for Yucca Mountain. He said the report will go to congress with a recommendation that another site be chosen and developed.
My cynical nature makes me wonder if that $21 billion is even there anymore, considering the way our representatives have been throwing money at the war in Iraq and God only knows what other excuses have been used to raid the fund. Could that be one of the reasons the budget is so low?
Face it, “we” (taxpayers and ratepayers) are subsidizing nuclear facilities, as well as paying the going rate for service, and will continue to do so until either a repository is completed, or there’s a major change in the law.
Of course proponents of nuclear power generation won’t have a problem with paying the extra dollars, after all, it’s a part of doing business.
I think it’s an abomination and it’s time to get off the pot, tell Congress to set the wheels in motion to finish the Yucca Mountain project as soon as possible and get that stuff out of backyards in 39 states.
Yes, this is a reversal of my earlier comments on Yucca Mountain. It took that interview with Mr. Sproat to wake me up to the reality of what’s happening to the “little guys and gals”, you and me.
What do you think?
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal