No more raz­zle-daz­zle

The courts stop the shake­down of the nu­clear-power in­dus­try

The Washington Times Daily - - Editorial -

Pres­i­dent Obama’s deal-mak­ing skills usu­ally short­change Amer­ica. He puts the world at risk by cod­dling an Iran lov­ing the bomb; he re­quires Amer­i­cans to pur­chase health care they don’t want from a web­site that doesn’t work. Now the ad­min­is­tra­tion is com­pelling util­ity com­pa­nies to pay for a nu­clear-waste stor­age site they can’t use, and never will.

The U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Columbia last week or­dered the En­ergy Depart­ment to stop charg­ing nu­clear-power firms $750 mil­lion in an­nual fees to pay for the Yucca Moun­tain Nu­clear Waste Re­pos­i­tory in the wilder­ness of Ne­vada. Though more than $12 bil­lion has been spent build­ing the site, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­cided not to use it, in def­er­ence to the se­nior se­na­tor from Las Ve­gas and his de­cree of “not in my back­yard.” The court said the ad­min­is­tra­tion had failed to present a con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment for fur­ther col­lec­tion of the fees, and at­tempt­ing to use “the old raz­zledaz­zle” ob­scures the fact that the gov­ern­ment has no plan to spend the money.

Lau­rence H. Sil­ber­man, the se­nior judge, wrote that the gov­ern­ment “can­not re­nounce Yucca Moun­tain and then rea­son­ably use its costs as a proxy” for con­tin­ued col­lec­tion of fees for the Nu­clear Waste Fund. Af­ter 30 years of fees and in­ter­est, the fund is brim­ming with nearly $30 bil­lion, while the stor­age site, an enor­mous hole in a desert moun­tain­side, re­mains empty. “The gov­ern­ment was hoist on its own petard,” Judge Sil­ber­man said.

The ap­peals court had ruled in Au­gust that the Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion has been in breach of fed­eral law for its re­fusal to com­plete a fi­nal re­view of the Yucca Moun­tain site. Like a naughty child fear­ing a scold­ing, the com­mis­sion restarted the re­view process the day be­fore the court slapped down the En­ergy Depart­ment for its dodgy fee-col­lec­tion scheme.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has spent five years play­ing a game of claim­ing to back nu­clear en­ergy in prin­ci­ple while block­ing it in prac­tice. As the de­lay­ing tac­tics con­tin­ued to waste money, the En­ergy Depart­ment de­ployed a blue-rib­bon panel to rec­om­mend al­ter­na­tive stor­age so­lu­tions. The re­sult was a re­port in 2012 that rec­om­mended build­ing a new stor­age dump in a com­mu­nity some­where — any­where — that agrees to be the next host. So far, no tak­ers.

Lib­er­als from the “Flower Power” era, over­dos­ing on nos­tal­gia, can’t kick the habit of see­ing nu­clear en­ergy as the malev­o­lent en­abler of the mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial com­plex. They join their fears with younger vot­ers’ in­fat­u­a­tion with al­ter­na­tiveen­ergy sources such as wind­mills, so­lar pan­els and al­gae. The re­al­ity is that nu­clear power is the most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly source of en­ergy.

Nu­clear plants don’t have “green­house gas” emis­sions (which is the scary way of de­scrib­ing carbon diox­ide, which all hu­mans ex­hale). Such plants do not pro­duce the vis­ual pol­lu­tion of sprawl­ing wind and so­lar farms. They don’t slice and dice er­rant sea gulls. In what should be the ul­ti­mate sign of ac­cep­tance for the fright­ened left, 75 per­cent of power in France comes from nu­clear plants.

The only unan­swered ques­tion about nu­clear power is what to do with the waste. We could solve that by open­ing Yucca Moun­tain, whether Harry Reid likes it or not.

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