The Lindberg Report Podcast: Yucca Mountain Failure a Windfall for Nuclear Utilities

yuccamountain.jpgI 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

5 thoughts on “The Lindberg Report Podcast: Yucca Mountain Failure a Windfall for Nuclear Utilities”

  1. The utilites were de facto forced to accept deep geological disposal and the government charged them for the privilege.

    If you’re going to kill Yucca mountain for political reasons and replace it with nothing, in a sane and just world you will have to reimburse the nuclear utilities; that’s obvious.

    In a sane and just world you’d also have to reimburse the utilities for the privilege of arbitrarily cancelling projects which have previously been given the green light. Reprocessing is most prominent; tens of billions flushed down the toilet for purely arbitrary political reasons.

    Here’s an analogy; you get the necessesary building permits and install solar panels on your roof. The government then arbitrarily decides to not allow you to plug them into the grid making them completely useless to you. In a sane and just world the government should compensate you for arbitrarily destroying your investment with no advance notice.

  2. Yes, the rate-payer paid already for it. But the cost of electricity production from nuclear is very low, because the fixed costs, like fuel (with surtax) are so much lower than the fuel costs from coal or natural gas. The point is that the money WAS already collected with the contractual understanding that it would be used to build a repository. Instead the money has and is being squandered on political bickering and other uses. This is called embezzlement. It does not matter if the guilty entity is the government. Unless we are so used to politicians doing that, that we consider it normal. But then the tax-payers, which voted these politicians into office, have to foot the bill.

  3. Thank you both for the excellent, and informative comments. The fact remains, however, that taxpayers (the government) will have to pay the price for not completing a repository. And yes, the utilities had to pay the surtax, but I’ll bet the rate-payer was the one who really financed the payment. I haven’t heard of any commercial operation yet with a heart big enough to pay a claim of any kind without taking it from the customer. Again, thank you gentlemen for your input.

  4. That disposal fund, paid for by the utilities with a surtax on every KWh produced, holds now over 30 billion dollars. Paid for a waste disposal site that the government promised to build. So it is NOT taxpayer money, but actually money that belongs to the utilites. If I get prepaid for a job I don’t do, I have to pay the money back. If I don’t, it is called stealing.

  5. Of course you leave out the fact that the US govt has charged the nuclear power industry a tax on every kilowatt sold from a nuclear reactor since the 1970’s.

    This money was supposed to goto a fund that developed waste disposal procedures, and locations. But it just disappeared down the rabbit hole, funding our current welfare state.

    Meanwhile the utilities have not only had to pay the surcharge, but also the storage costs for wastes on site for the past 40+ years. Please in the future, do some research.

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