Sen. Harry Reid issued a message today to gubernatorial candidates in South Carolina who are challenging the Obama administration’s shutdown of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project:
"Hell no, that won’t happen," he said.
Reid put out a response after Republican Nikki Haley said Thursday that if elected she’d like to form a coalition with other governors to revive the Nevada repository plan. Her Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen, agreed with her.
South Carolina, where nuclear waste is stored at the government-owned Savannah River nuclear complex, has been one of the more militant states pushing back on the administration’s termination of the Yucca site, which was accomplished through Reid pressure.
"Nevada is not the nation’s dumping ground and it never will be as long as I have something to say about it," Reid said in a statement. "It makes no sense to haul 77,000 tons of the most dangerous substance known to man across the country and into Nevada.
"Further, at a time when our state is already suffering economically, I’m not willing to risk our state’s top industry–tourism–just because politicians in other states that produce the waste don’t want it in their back yards,” he said.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to rule soon on whether the Department of Energy’s license application for a nuclear repository can be shelved, as requested by the Obama administration. A blue ribbon commission created by Obama is studying alternatives for waste disposal or recycling.
Meanwhile, the NRC, an independent science and safety agency, this week took action that could reduce the need for development of a nuclear waste site for decades if not longer.
The five-member commission amended its ‘waste confidence rule" to declare that highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel can be stored at reactor sites for at least 60 years after a nuclear plant’s license expires, doubling the previous 30-year allowable period.
Reactors are licensed for 40 years, and can seek 20-year renewals. The first reactors to bump up against the new ceiling on allowable waste storage may not do so until 2089, according to NRC licensing data.
NRC spokesmen said the agency has growing confidence in the above-ground steel and concrete containers that utilities have been using to store accumulated waste on reactor grounds, in addition to its temporary storage in pools of cooling water.
Additionally, the commissioners directed the agency staff to initiate a proposal that would explore whether spent fuel could remain onsite for even longer periods, perhaps up to 300 years.