Sunday, July 20, 2008

A nuclear boondoggle

Sun editorial:

A nuclear boondoggle

Yucca Mountain project costs now estimated at a whopping $90 billion

Thu, Jul 17, 2008 (2:06 a.m.)

If it hasn’t been clear that the cost of building a nuclear waste dump 90 miles from Las Vegas at Yucca Mountain far outweighs any benefit, a congressional hearing Tuesday made it crystal clear.

Ward Sproat, the Energy Department official overseeing the project, told members of Congress that the startup cost of building and initially operating it will be about $90 billion. That’s a significant increase over the last estimate, which put the cost at $58 billion.

Given the Energy Department’s history of failing to meet expectations, it is safe to assume the real cost of the project would be much higher, particularly considering that the federal government still has yet to finalize many of its plans.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., faced down a passel of nuclear industry hired guns at the hearing and told her colleagues to “keep in mind Yucca Mountain’s bloated price tag, history of chronic delays, failed quality assurance program, and the long list of scientific and technological shortcomings that plague the project.”

The Energy Department has spent $9 billion over more than 20 years trying to prove that Yucca Mountain will work, yet study after study has found the site to be completely unsuitable for holding nuclear waste.

Still the Bush administration and nuclear industry sycophants in Congress continue to push for Yucca Mountain. The nuclear industry says the dump is necessary to ensure the future of nuclear energy, yet waste has been safely stored at nuclear power plants for decades and can certainly stay there for years to come. And that would undoubtedly be cheaper and far less dangerous than hauling the waste across the country and burying it in a porous volcanic ridge.

Unfortunately, the Energy Department seems hellbent on proceeding with a plan that would make hundreds of American communities thoroughfares for deadly radioactive waste.

Congress should put a stop to this pricey boondoggle once and for all.

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