In 1982, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, amending in 1987, levied a tax on consumers for electricity generated by nuclear power, and set a 1998 deadline to begin accepting used fuel. The U.S. government defaulted. “1998 has come and gone,” said Kraft. “It’s almost nine years later and 50 utilities are suing. Lawsuits are in the multiple, multiple billions of dollars.” One wonders if the federal government will actually honor this obligation. “No one is being helped by this,” Kraft complained. The DOE has settled with Exelon and a few others to repay their interim storage costs. Utilities have been paying about $750 million per year since 1982. For example, Illinois consumers have paid $3.5 billion since the inception of the Nuclear Waste Fund; Pennsylvania consumers have paid $2.4 billion.
“There are a lot of places that want to build new nuclear plants,” Kraft pointed out. “There are about 30 on the boards right now.” But a lot of the communities are asking, “Wait a minute, we still have the spent fuel from the other reactor, when is all that stuff going to leave the site?”
Kraft explained, “What the communities are not asking for is an actual functioning disposal system, but a believable sustainable plan for getting there. At the moment, the DOE program does not look terribly sustainable to these communities. In each case that wants a facility, the community is making it very clear ‘we want to know what the plans are for moving the nuclear waste offsite.’ We have to be able to answer those questions.”
He is earnest about moving Yucca Mountain into the operational stage. “I’ve been waking up for the past 30 years wanting to solve this problem,” Kraft told us. “The person that has to wake up is Congress.”
In a September 13th press release, the NEI wrote, “To meet a projected increase in electricity demand of 45 percent by 2030, 12 companies or groups of companies are developing federal construction and operating license applications, and four companies already have filed applications for early site permits with the NRC.” The first wave of those nuclear power plants could be ready for commercial operation in the 2014 to 2015 time frame.
In a nutshell, U.S. consumers would be in a no-win situation in the absence of nuclear power. More than 70 percent of the electricity which comes from energy sources that do not bring about greenhouse gases or are linked to smog and acid rain comes from nuclear energy. The rest comes from renewables, especially hydroelectric power. “By shutting down 20 percent of our electricity doesn’t make sense for this country,” Kraft argued. “It’s not something the average ordinary homeowner is going to want to have happen.”