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Obama’s Nuclear Problem

Like all devout eco-socialists, Barack Obama is not fond of nuclear energy.

During the 2008 Presidential primaries, when he was still rough around the edges and often carelessly exposing his true inner feelings, Obama leaked his nuclear sentiments before a New Hampshire newspaper’s editorial board.  Asked about his stance on nuclear power, Senator Obama sarcastically replied, “I don’t think there is anything we inevitably dislike about nuclear power, we just dislike the fact that it might blow up, and irradiate us, and kill us! That’s the problem.”[1]

The fawning media clucks chuckled.

Despite producing a carbon-free source of electricity, nuclear energy is adamantly opposed by environmentalists.  They claim their primary disapproval is an unplanned nuclear accident that would spread deadly radiation.  Like programmed robots they immediately site Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now the tsunami-swamped Fukushima reactor in Japan, to provide ad hominem examples of nuclear power gone mad.
When rational individuals present arguments illustrating how such accidents have been overhyped  the environmentalist’s fallback focuses on the radioactive waste generated at the various nuclear plants.

That too is an easy argument to win.

There are 104 nuclear power facilities in the US, with the earliest in operation since the 1960s.  All of the nuclear waste ever generated within these plants is stored at 126 different sites scattered about the nation.  The total amount of spent uranium (the primary waste material) amounts to 65,000 tons.  Determining it would be best to safeguard these nuclear byproducts in one location, in 1987 President George H.W. Bush signed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Amendment, which supposedly settled the waste issue by codifying Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nation’s first permanent nuclear waste repository.  Part of the deal gave Nevadans the opportunity to weigh in on the matter, but also allowed Congress veto-power in the event the Silver State should reject the plan (even though Yucca Mountain is located on Federal land).

Yucca Mountain is a rugged, treeless, barren, no-man’s land about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  If you placed photos of Tora Bora, Afghanistan next to those taken at Yucca Mountain, you wouldn’t notice much difference.  Yucca Mountain is an ideal location to secure nuclear waste.

After years of debate, and billions spent procuring feasibility studies, in April 2002, Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn issued a thumbs-down.  Since the governor’s decision could only be overridden by a majority vote in both houses of Congress, for three months Yucca Mountain was debated in Congressional committee hearings, and on the floor of the House and Senate.  Eventually, the House of Representatives voted to override the Nevada objection by approving the Yucca Mountain site 306-117.  Later, the Senate concurred with by a voice vote of 60-39.  This approval, known as the Yucca Mountain Development Act (YMDA), was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 23, 2002, allowing the Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare and submit a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to move forward with the decision.

By the time the YMDA was enacted, the DOE had spent $7.1 billion on the Yucca Mountain issue; it would soon spend another $1.5 billion preparing the Yucca Mountain license application, including transportation and waste acceptance plans.[2]

Finally, in June 2008, the DOE submitted its staggering 8,600-page license application to the NRC.  After a preliminary 90-day screening period involving some 40 NRC staff members, the NRC determined that the application contained sufficient information to formally move on to the next stage of technical and scientific review.  According to federal legislation, the NRC must complete the Yucca Mountain license application review within four years.  According to the DOE, the earliest the repository could start accepting waste, given a smooth licensing process and consistent funding, was 2020.

But there was a problem.  The anti-nuke President, Barack Obama, was at the helm of the government.
Immediately Obama’s first proposed budget cut off money to further ready Yucca Mountain for waste disposal.  That move kissed the 2020 goal goodbye.

However, to silence political opposition and appease the majority of American’s who are for nuclear power, in January 2010 team Obama pulled the infamous bureaucratic trick of forming a Blue Ribbon Committee to “provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.”[3]

In announcing the formation of the Committee, the White House made it look as if it was being open-minded about reconsidering a one-stop waste depository, but in February 2011, Energy Secretary Chu unilaterally sent a letter to the Committee declaring that the Yucca Mountain plan was not a “workable option.”
Three months later the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ independent investigative arm, released a statement calling Obama and Chu’s bluff: “[The] DOE’s decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository program was made for policy reasons, not technical or safety reasons,” said the GAO.[4]

To be sure 65,000 tons of anything sounds like a lot, but that amount of spent uranium does not require an expansive storage area.  Extremely dense, a chunk of uranium the size of a gallon of milk weighs 150 pounds—so, 13 gallon-jugs of uranium would equal a ton.  Simple math would break down the uranium tonnage into roughly 845,000 milk jugs, all which could fit neatly within the confines of the average high school basketball gym.

However, proving what a driven ideologue he is, candidate Obama made it clear he was against Yucca Mountain from the get-go, saying it was “not an option,” a pretty definitive statement for a junior Senator who’s last job was that of a community organizer.

In terms of our nuclear power portfolio, Obama has moved the ball backwards.  If he gets four more years, our nuclear sector will be so antiquated, and our power grid so stretched, that our lifestyles will be dumbed-down and our economic standing severely dented as the rest of the developed (and developing) world gains an advantage.

Certainly that’s what socialists in the country have desired for decades.

With Obama, we should have seen his position on nuclear energy coming.

All of these shenanigans boil down to confirming the real issue: Obama, Chu and their environmentalist cohorts do not want the people of the US to have access to inexpensive, plentiful power.


[1] Barack Obama, during a meeting with the Editorial Board of the Keene Sentinel newspaper in New Hampshire, on Nov. 25, 2007, and reported in  “Nuclear Power a Thorny Issue For Candidates”, National Public Radio  Morning Edition, July 21, 2008, by David Kestenbaum.  Available on youtube.com “Sen. Barack Obama on nuclear power from SentinelSource.com”

[2] James Hylko, Robert Peltier, “The U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel Policy: Road to Nowhere,” Power Magazine, May 1, 2010, http://www.powermag.com/issues/cover_stories/The-U-S-Spent-Nuclear-Fuel-Policy-Road-to-Nowhere_2651.html.

[3] “Secretary Chu Announces Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future,” Press Release, US Department of Energy, January 29, 2010, http://www.energy.gov/news/8584.htm.

[4] Roberta Rampton, “Rush to kill nuclear dump sets back waste plans,” Reuters, May 10, 2011, http://www.wtvr.com/news/politics/sns-rt-politics-us-usa-nuctre7490or-20110510,0,2721390.story.

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4 Responses to “ “Obama’s Nuclear Problem”

  1. Ed Watts says:

    It is difficult to be in favor of something one does not understand. I would wager that anything having to do with physics or nuclear energy is far beyond the ken of a community organizer, especially one who is so ashamed of his pathetic efforts in school that he refuses to allow anyone to see his transcripts.

    There, there, Barry; it’ll be all right.

  2. joe says:

    Great comment, Ed Watts! Obama has NO common sense. Just screwed up, radical left ideology. Dear God, forgive us our trespasses, but deliver us from Obama!

  3. Dan Snyder says:

    Gee, I thought you conservative types were against big government forcing their will on “the people”. I guess it depends on the issue. The people of Nevada have said they don’t want nuclear waste stored in their state. I guess we could ask the Japanese if they want it.

  4. Obama did an end run around the people in declaring Yucca Mountain off-limits. Read all of my work before popping off like a bottle top.

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