Thursday, May 14, 2015

DOE Holds Forth

For much interesting chat concerning the world of nuclear waste, see: Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz's remarks on “A Look Back on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future,” dated March 24, 2015.

Abstracted from these remarks are these summarized facts, all according to DOE:

1. The DOE is committed to sustaining nuclear energy’s role in America’s low carbon future.

2. Part of that commitment is offering solutions for the disposition of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste based upon the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission for America's Nuclear Future (Final Report, 26 January, 2012.)

3. Any workable solution for the final disposition of used fuel and nuclear waste must be based not only on sound science but also on achieving public acceptance at the local, and state and tribal levels.

4. Today, President Obama authorized the Energy Department to move forward with planning for a separate repository for high-level radioactive waste resulting from atomic energy defense activities.

Concerning which remarks, the following are my own (KL's) comments:

1. DOE claims to be "committed to sustaining nuclear energy's role in America's low carbon future," but DOE seems to be doing precious little to promote this claim. While the number of operating nuclear power plants in the U. S. continues to decline, DOE shuttered the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, before any nuclear waste could actually be delivered but after $ billions had been spent to prepare the site.

Moreover, DOE has back-pedaled on previously agreed upon plans to burn MOX fuel in TVA nuclear reactors, at once foregoing possible technical advances in commercial nuclear power generation while annoying the Russians, their MOX fuel negotiating partner. Now DOE talks glibly about burying this weapons grade nuclear waste in deep boreholes; but, this involves an unproven technology and will not satisfy Russian demands that this dangerous material be rendered entirely unavailable for future use in nuclear weapons.

2&3. In spite of the Blue Ribbon Commission's advice, the notion that nuclear waste ought not be put into a permanent repository, even on federal lands, without prior expressions of deep satisfaction from neighboring populations (a "consent-based approach"), seems to me to be at least a recipe for more delay. Also, the fact that DOE features the tribes so prominently, in this context, is suspicious. After all, tribal lands held in trust by the U. S. government amount to only 2.5% of the total U. S. land area, or just 9% of federal land holdings. Might it be that DOE yearns to dump its nuclear waste largely onto tribal lands?Alternately, is DOE again just trying to make friends?

 Most recently ,DOE has tried to avoid its nuclear waste policy impasse by entering into an agreement with Waste Control Specialists to store defense nuclear waste, on an interim basis, although in insufficiently large quantities, on privately owned land (but, in Texas.)

 Finally, in the person of Director E. Moniz, DOE talks charmingly about how it intends to move forward on several fronts, gaining control of the presently chaotic world of nuclear waste, perhaps partly by means of its superior powers of analysis combined with its poignant hopes for a better future.

Why am I not much impressed?

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