Letters to the Editor

Get Back to Yucca Mountain

Editor's note: The following editorial appeared last week in the Seattle Times.

We ought to be encouraged by a federal legal panel's decision rejecting the Obama administration's effort to scuttle unilaterally the billions of dollars and years put into the long-term repository for the nation's nuclear waste.

Encouraged, yes, except for the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, rather than waiting for the U.S. Department of Energy to appeal the decision, apparently seems raring to second-guess its own Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The commission quickly asserted jurisdiction and asked for filings by next Friday.

Candidate Barack Obama promised to end the Yucca Mountain project, which flouts the intent of Congress and leaves spent nuclear fuel and defense waste stacking up around the country.

But the NRC's panel noted the Obama administration did not offer any scientific proof Yucca was not a sound place for the waste but said it was "unworkable."

Unworkable politically, that is. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has long opposed the Yucca site in his home state. Washington's Sen. Patty Murray, an unfailing champion of the Yucca site, nailed Energy Secretary Steven Chu when he could not produce any scientific reason for the decision.

Three of the five NRC members promised not to get in the way of Obama's Yucca decision at their confirmation hearings. The fourth, whom Obama appointed as chair, was Reid's former science adviser and, when he joined the commission in 2005, voluntarily recused himself from Yucca Mountain decisions but only for a year.

The deck certainly seems stacked here. The commissioners should uphold their board's correct decision.