Obama Budget Deals Blow to Nuclear Power

By February 28, 2009Energy

The draft budget removes funding for the planned nuclear-waste storage facility in Nevada, which has been 20 years and more than $9 billion in the making. A Department of Energy spokeswoman told Bloomberg that President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu “have been emphatic that nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain is not an option, period.”

What does that mean for the future of nuclear power? In the short term, nothing. Yucca Mountain never opened, and spent fuel from the country’s 104 reactors are kept in pools on site. Big nuclear countries like France don’t have deep geological storage, either. Even if it did open, there’s already a big enough backlog to fill it, so the administration was going to have to find a bigger solution to the waste-storage issue anyway.

But longer term, nuclear power’s fate is intertwined with the storage question, as folks at National Journal have been hashing out all week. That’s still the main reason many environmentalists hate nuclear power, despite a raft of recent green converts. Ramping up nuclear power in the U.S. to provide more zero-emissions electricity will require the country to address the waste issue head on at some point.

The draft budget says the administration will now “devise a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal.”

From President Obama’s Saturday radio address:

I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November.

Sweeping change? On nuclear power, it looks like the new strategy is the same old strategy: Store nuclear waste on-site at individual power plants and hope for something better.
(Hat tip: NEI Nuclear Notes)

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