The federal government promised to take spent nuclear fuel. It’s time it kept its word via The Tribune

To whom it may not concern:

Please allow us to introduce ourselves. We are a nuclear community, and we are tired of waiting for a “solution” to the dilemma of what to do with spent radioactive fuel.

Back when the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was under construction, we often asked: What would happen to the waste?


Now we have a new president, and Yucca Mountain is back under consideration — even though Nevada’s leadership is far from keen on the idea.

Democrat Harry Reid — one of Yucca’s most outspoken opponents — is gone, but an article in last month’s Atlantic magazine reported that Nevada’s governor and five of its six members of Congress oppose reviving the plan to turn Yucca Mountain into a storehouse for nuclear fuel for the next 10,000 years or so.

Among their concerns: Radioactive water could leak from the facility. An earthquake could damage it (in 2007 a fault line was discovered under the site). An accident could occur when fuel is being transported to the facility. The site could be a target for terrorists.

Defenders say the site is one of the most studied spots on Earth and a nuclear storage facility there would be safe.

That may be true, but the government still faces an uphill battle with Yucca Mountain that could drag on in court for years and cost taxpayers billions of dollars, in addition to the $15 billion already spent.

Another option is on the nearer-term horizon: Congressman Darrell Issa of California is co-sponsoring legislation, the Interim Consolidated Storage Act, that would allow private waste facilities to accept spent nuclear fuel on an interim basis. Two facilities — one in Texas and another in New Mexico — are seeking licenses.


We are “right on the coast” and “along a fault line” (multiple fault lines, in fact), and although our community isn’t as densely populated — more than 26,000 people live within 10 miles of the plant (according to 2010 census figures) — that population swells with tourists on busy weekends.

Issa said allowing waste to remain at San Onofre indefinitely “is only asking for trouble.”

Again, the same could be said of allowing waste to remain at Diablo Canyon.

We aren’t ready to endorse the Interim Consolidated Storage Act at this early juncture, and we’re concerned Yucca Mountain will be delayed forever. Although we admire the principle behind consent-based siting, we’re not convinced that’s a realistic approach. (If the government does go that route, will communities like ours have the opportunity to “consent” to “hosting” spent radioactive fuel until it’s finally removed?)

In other words, we aren’t advocating for or against a particular plan at this time.

So what, exactly, do we want?

Simple: We want attention.


It’s up to us living near nuclear power plants to keep this alive.

Contact the president and your congressional representatives. (Town hall meetings are one opportunity.) Enlist state and local officials to shine a light on the issue.

As for those of you who don’t have as much as cause for concern, we understand. But if you would like to join us in holding government accountable, we’d be grateful.

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