I’ve long said that pronouncements of the death of Yucca Mountain have been overstated, primarily because the Nuclear Waste Policy Act remains the law of the land, and that act (as amended) designates Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear repository. But that’s been frustrated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has managed to cut nearly all funding for the project, and President Barack Obama‘s administration, which has declared it’s looking for new ways to deal with nuclear waste.
But the underlying law has never changed. And today, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been violating that law by not proceeding with the Yucca Mountain license application.
Speaking at a news conference at the National Clean Energy Summit taking place today at the Mandalay Bay, Reid criticized the ruling.
“We’ve had some problems with that court for years,” Reid said. “It really doesn’t mean much. … This, without being disrespectful to the court, means nothing.”
Asked if he’s worried that the underlying law still designates Yucca as the nation’s nuclear waste dump, Reid said there was little chance of getting a change to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act through Congress. “We’re not going to get any laws passed,” he said. But it’s not partisan gridlock that’s stopping a change in nuclear waste policy laws; the fact is, a bi-partisan majority of representatives and senators come from states where nuclear waste is piling up, and they want it shipped out of their states.
The project is dormant now because has no money. (In fact, Chief Judge Merrick Garland wrote in his dissenting opinion that, because the project has hardly any money, an order to resume the licensing project was essentially meaningless.)
But here’s the problem: Yucca Mountain only has no money right now. And it only has no money because of Reid’s opposition. Once Reid leaves Congress, and a new president gets elected, the dynamic could easily change. And that will remain the case until the law changes, no matter how much, or how little, money is devoted to the Yucca Mountain project.