Shimkus: Restart Yucca nuclear storage project via The Southern

Stalled efforts to store nuclear waste have cost ratepayers in Illinois billions of dollars and taxpayers across the country billions more.

A spent rod of nuclear material already used by a nuclear plant still gives off a lot of heat and radiation. Since the Reagan Administration, the plan was to store the nation’s spent fuel rods inside the Yucca Mountain in a Nevada desert. But political fighting has all but stopped the project, leaving nuclear plants to store their spent fuel on site.

“There is no other place on the planet (to store spent fuel),” said U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who wants to see the Yucca project restarted. He said storage under a remote mountain is the best solution. “NIMBY means ‘not in my back yard.’ This is in nobody’s backyard.”

An account called the Nuclear Waste Fund was formed in 1983 and has accumulated more than $30 billion from ratepayers to go toward finishing the Yucca Mountain project. Illinois has contributed nearly $5 billion, more than any other state because it hosts more nuclear plants than any state. President Barack Obama’s administration suspended contributions to the fund in May 2014.


While most spent fuel is kept under the supervision of still-operating nuclear power facilities, some plants, like the one decommissioned in Zion, Illinois, are gone. All that remains are the casks full of still radioactive material on what Shimkus says should be developed property.

“In the case of Zion, you have a decommissioned nuclear plant with nuclear waste still on site, which depresses real estate values and discourages economic development around that,” he said.

Read more at Shimkus: Restart Yucca nuclear storage project

Rebuttal by NEIS (Nuclear Energy Information Service)


This article on Yucca Mt. is a great example of the selective willful distortion and wide-spread ignorance of the complete facts concerning Yucca Mt. and high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) disposal in the U.S..  It also promotes a shockingly self-serving distortion of the history of high-level radioactive waste management  through selective omission of facts by the nuclear industry and its allies in Congress.

Virtually every statement attributed to Rep. John Shimkus in this article is either flat-out wrong, only a partial and self-serving description of reality, or highly contestable, suggesting that the Congressman’s positions are ideologically driven, and not-science-based.  For example:

  • There ARE other places on the planet (to dispose of spent fuel).  They are being built in Finland and Sweden, showing that other kinds of geology DO exist in which to dispose of the waste that are better than that at Yucca Mt.
  • Yucca Mt. is NOT “the best solution” to dispose of HLRW; it was the only one that Congress permitted the DOE to study after the 1987 “Screw Nevada” legislation.  It was mandated by Congress FIRST, characterized by scientific examination afterwards.  Eight other sites were to have been examined; but over the years various Congresses removed them from examination, and finally prohibited DOE from looking elsewhere.
  • It is NOT “in nobody’s backyard.” It sits on Western Shoshone land by treaty, and they contest and oppose the siting of Yucca Mt.  So much for Rep. Shimkus self-righteous chest-pounding about the Obama Administration having no respect for the law.  While sparsely populated, people DO live out there and have livelihoods near the Mountain.
  • Rep. Shimkus distorts the meaning of “NIMBY.”   The people of Nevada derived no benefit from nuclear power and the creation of HLRW, but are being asked – maybe forced – to accept the liabilities.  People in other states – especially Illinois — got the benefits from nuclear, but now don’t want THEIR BACKYARDS sullied by HLRW, and so demand that folks elsewhere take the risks. Who are the real NIMBYs here?

Other facts are either omitted outright, or presented in an incomplete manner designed to bias the conclusions to favor restarting Yucca Mt.:

  • Yucca Mt. was not selected during the Reagan Administration because it was shown to be scientifically sound.  It was selected by Congress which had eliminated all eight other candidate sites because of local/state politics. Harry Reid’s politics came decades later.
  • Yucca Mt. is not the “best” site; it is a politically expedient, flawed site.  Who says so?  Well among many others, Alison Macfarlane, a trained geologist and former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), whose presentation about Yucca Mt. at the 2008 Deane Conference at Lake Forest College in Illinois indicated that Yucca Mt. failed two of four international IAEA siting criteria for the safe isolation of HLRW.
  • Other viable, cost-effective means DO exist to store HLRW at reactor sites.  Since there is no other alternative available at present, HLRW that will have to remain at reactors for at least another decade should be stored in reactor communities in the safest manner known – hardened onsite storage.  Yet, both the NRC and the nuclear utilities like Exelon have rejected this alternative numerous times as “too expensive.”
  • Resurrecting the flawed Yucca Mt. project is estimated to cost upwards of $2-3 BILLION annually, for a number of years, just to get it operational.  Additionally, massive infrastructure expenditures would be required for the safe transport of the HLRW to the site.
  • Finally, the last paragraph hints at but fails to report that one Yucca. Mt. won’t be  enough.  AT LEAST one additional such site would be required to permanently dispose of all the U.S. reactor wastes.

The permanent disposal of HLRW in an environmentally sound manner is too important a project to be left to the ideologically and politically driven nuclear industry and its allies in Congress.  Instead of hosting self-serving Congressional hearings that mock science, Rep. Shimkus should bring over some of the Finns and Swedes to learn how to do HLRW disposal siting right, based on science and public involvement.  Oh that’s right – he doesn’t know they exist. ■


David A. Kraft, Director


3411 W. Diversey #13

Chicago, IL  60647


SKYPE address:  davekhamburg

NEIS is a member of EarthShare Illinois

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