Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bennett reverses: He's foe of Yucca

"The entire issue needs to be rethought, Bennett said. The fundamental principles of that new policy should include unqualified support for more nuclear power, that the nation work toward the technology that would allow reprocessing of waste and that all nuclear waste be left where it is until reprocessing can proceed, he said.

"If it is safe to transport nuclear waste, and it is safe to store nuclear waste at an interim storage site like Skull Valley, "by definition it is equally as safe to leave it where it is," he said."
Sounds like a punt to me.

Reprocessing of "spent fuel" is the way to go. Were it up to me, there would be absolutely no dumping of "spent fuel". So-called spent fuel still contains the vast bulk of its original fuel value. It should be reprocessed both to recover that fuel value and to radically reduce the amount, and lifetime, of nuclear waste ultimately needing disposal. Reprocessing "spent fuel" makes a great deal of sense.

On the other hand, leaving spent fuel at the plant in spent fuel pools or in dry casks, as is now the practice, is hardly as safe as putting it underground or gathering it from hundreds of scattered interim locations to one interim location.

Had Bennett said, "Reprocessing is now an option in this country" rather than " the nation [should] work toward the technology that would allow reprocessing of waste", I'd have been encouraged. Had he said, "Reprocessing is now an option and this bill mandates reprocessing over dumping" I'd have been very happy with it.

Reprocessing is already more than an option. It's a reality. The French, Japanese and Russians do it all the time. We should, too.

As it is, though, Bennett's stance is just pandering to anti-nukes and NIMBYs. As someone said, perfect is the enemy of good enough. Yucca will be good enough for now. Reprocessing would be better, but the energy situation is dire and we have to get a move on. All Bennett's stance does is shield him a bit from anti-nuke activists and NIMBYs at the expense of reduced prospects for nuclear energy.

Reducing the prospects for any relatively benign, massive-scale, non-intermittent renewable energy source is exactly the wrong thing to do to our modern industrial society, especially on the eve of peak oil and at a time when the reality of anthropogenic global climate change is acknowledged by all but the blind and self-interested. And yes, nuclear energy is relatively benign, massive-scale, non-intermittent and renewable.

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