And the fate of the emerging nuclear revival, or the nuclear renaissance, hangs by the decisions Congress must soon make in honoring the government’s obligation as the ultimate stewards of the nuclear waste. “We capture all our waste,” said Kraft. “We store it all, we know where it is, we got it numbered and we treat it with great respect.” Ironically, with the ongoing renaissance in uranium mining in the United States, if there were no reversal by Congress, the yellowcake would end up in Asia or elsewhere to fuel their galloping nuclear energy programs.
In 2002, after more than 60 public hearings were held in Nevada, then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham certified that Yucca Mountain meets the site selection requirements. Both house of Congress approved the Yucca Mountain site in July 2002. “Yucca Mountain is an approved project as far as Congress and the President are concerned,” concluded Kraft. “And now we have the license application to complete, get it through the NRC, and start building it.” Approval for Yucca Mountain came after one of the most extensive scientific investigations in U.S. history. The NRC review may take up to three years.
The remaining stumbling block appears to be the 1995 report by the National Academy of Sciences, and adopted by the EPA, demanding a million-year guarantee of safety at Yucca Mountain. This came about while Yucca Mountain was passing every scientific test for the original 10,000-year safeguard. Congress can remedy this absurdity with legislation relieving this EPA standard. In other words, it is time to get realistic. Otherwise, the nuclear waste remains in limbo, chilling out in the cooling ponds or dry casket storage instead of the Yucca Mountain tunnels.