Regarding the July 16 editorial “Put Yucca Mountain to work”:
The editorial board greatly understated the obstacles to opening a repository for high-level nuclear waste in Nevada. These obstacles extend beyond Nevada’s political opposition to Yucca Mountain.
The licensing process, run by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is only half done. The technical review has been finished, but the hearing process, in which more than 300 contentions must be decided, has not even begun. And it will not begin unless Congress funds the Energy Department (the applicant) and the NRC (the regulator). And even completing the licensing process will not solve the problems: Funds are no longer being collected for waste disposal, and Congress has essentially applied the $35 billion in existing funds for a repository toward offsetting the national debt . The office responsible for this mission was dismantled years ago; a new organization will have to be established, preferably with a single mission outside the Energy Department, as is under consideration in the Senate.
Geologic disposal is clearly the best solution to the nuclear waste problem, but much remains to be fixed before waste can be buried.
Allison Macfarlane, Washington
The writer is former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a former member
of the White House Blue Ribbon Commission
on America’s Nuclear Future.
Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, Fairfax
The writer is former chief of staff to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and senior Obama administration nuclear waste policy expert in the Energy Department.
Decades ago, I worked as an engineering aide at Yucca Mountain when it was being considered as a disposal site for high-level nuclear waste. The best available engineering and scientific technology was applied to investigate the site. Even technical experts from Europe observed our work. The basic conclusion was that geologic disposal of the waste made sense and would protect the population and environment for many thousands of years.
But politics intervened, and then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) worked very hard to prevent construction, although he fully supported the huge government spending in Nevada to investigate the site.
Nuclear energy makes sense, and we can dispose of that waste.
William M. Sprecher, Leesburg