The green folly and the nuclear obsession

The Investor’s Business Daily editorial Nuclear Fuel: Waste Not, Want Not takes a look at how the Nevada Yucca Mountain waste repository has become a political football. There is a renewed interest in nuclear energy due to the rising cost of oil and the fears about human induced climate change. But the bugaboo word ‘nuclear’ still holds its power over those whose mind is fixated on mushroom clouds.

Over the past four decades, America’s reactors have produced about 56,000 tons of used fuel.

France long ago achieved energy independence by relying on nuclear energy for most of its power needs. But it also leads the world in processing this waste to create even more energy.

The French have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel for 30 years without incident. There have been no accidental explosions, no terrorist attacks, no contribution to nuclear proliferation. Their facility in La Hague has safely processed more than 23,000 tons of spent fuel, or enough to power the entire country for 14 years.

The U.S. pioneered the technology to recapture that energy decades ago, then banned its commercial use in 1977. An energy plan that does not involve continued and even increased use of nuclear power is no plan at all. And even if we closed all nuclear plants tomorrow, the waste problem would remain.

With many other types of waste, recycling is the preferred choice – even if it costs more than disposal. Washoe County, for instance, requires the garbage company to circulate recycled garbage pickup. But when it comes to nuclear waste, this philosophy is tossed aside.

While a lot of the nuclear waste by volume is from medicine or other industry, there is also a good bit that represents a significant energy store. The Yucca Mountain idea was to just stash it and let it rot as it is doing now in plant storage tanks spread all across the country. Letting an energy source rot seems to make as much sense as not allowing drilling on a few acres out of many thousands in a wildlife refuge or not allowing drilling rigs to ‘spoil’ the view at a beach.

There is a luxury in being able to make the choice not to pursue tapping easily available energy sources. That luxury seems to correlate well with the political pandering such as that about Yucca Mountain.

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