Category Archives: Yucca Mountain

Coffee and the Papers

Breaking News: Yucca Mountain is still dead. [Las Vegas Sun] The Clark County, NV Republicans are still in disarray. [KTVN] [Las Vegas Sun] [WaPo] [KOLO] and [LVRJ]  The Ron Paul supporters are seeking “genuine conservatives.” [LVRJ]  And, do click over to NVProgressive for a description of what’s happening in NV-04.

Hearts and Flowers:  If you can read the President’s remarks at the graduation ceremony for Joplin High School graduates without tearing up just a bit, check your empathy chip and replace if necessary.

Breaking the News:  The typical CEO in the United States was paid $9.6 million in 2011, that’s up 6% from 2010.  Or, to put it another way, the CEO’s were paid what it would take the typical American worker 3,489 years to earn.  [RGJ]  Not to get all attacky on the capitalists or anything, but the worker’s earnings aren’t keeping up with worker’s productivity:

“Manufacturing sector productivity rose 5.9 percent in the first quarter of  2012, as output grew 10.8 percent and hours worked increased 4.6 percent.  The increases in productivity and output were the largest since the second  quarter of 2010. Over the last four quarters, manufacturing sector productivity increased 2.5 percent. Unit labor costs in manufacturing fell  4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 and decreased 1.3 percent from the same quarter a year ago.” [BLS]

Productivity is a nicer way to say “working harder and longer to make more stuff” and in this case for the same pay or less for doing so.  In this case “unit labor costs” (wages and benefits) declined while production numbers increased.  Declining “unit labor costs” usually mean declining spending power; declining spending power usually means decreasing demand.

Meanwhile in Xenophobia:  Noted citizen of Xenophobia, Representative Steve King (R-IA), drew criticism for equating immigrants to dogs during a recent town hall meeting. [Politico] This might help to explain why President Obama holds a 61% to 27% advantage with Hispanic/Latino heritage voters?  [The Hill]

The Romney Plan student loan plan “By The Bankers and For The Bankers:”  Here’s the former MA Governor: “Reverse President Obama’s nationalization of the student loan market and welcome private sector participation in providing information, financing, and the education itself.”  Here’s a critique.   And here’s a problem for the defenders of free market capitalism:

One of the nicer features of free market capitalism is the notion that he who takes the risk shall be he who gets the rewards.  That’s why some loans have higher interest rates than others.  The greater the risk taken the more interest should be earned to compensate for taking that risk.  However, the old Bush new Romney version stands that principle on its head.

Under the Bush/Romney plan the banks got a subsidy for making student loans, and then the federal government (using taxpayer funds) guaranteed the loans, so that the Banks earned the interest without actually taking any risk!  What the Obama Administration did was remove the Middlemen.  Since the taxpayers (government) were the ones taking the risks, the taxpayers (government) should be the ones earning the interest.  Interesting how the bankers are now bellowing about losing their “privatized earnings” on the “socialized risks?”  And by the way, there’s no “nationalizing” involved, private banks still make student loans and are perfectly free to do so — they just can’t expect taxpayers to subsidize them and guarantee their collection of interest earnings.

There’s more over at the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus blog.

Dispatches from the War on Women:  “Five female Democratic senators pressed for legislation Wednesday aimed at closing the wage gap between men and women. The Paycheck Fairness Act would bring up to date the Equal Pay Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson nearly 50 years ago.” [Politico] What you should know about the Paycheck Fairness Act here.   Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will bring the measure up for a cloture vote (Yes, the Republicans are filibustering it) during the week of June 4, 2012.

Dispatches on the Despicable:  One so-called charity on behalf of American veterans has already been revealed as fraudulent. [HuffPo] Worse still, almost half of the 39 veterans charities received failing grades from the American Institute of Philanthropy. [HuffPo] The AIP has a web site Charity Watch which will assist donors who want to make certain their contributions are not misused or squandered. The organization advises donors to beware of organizations which use as much as 80% of their donations for more fundraising. [CW] Charity Navigator also has a ratings guide for organizations.

About that Federal Spending Mythology: Two handy charts —

Bloggy Mountain Breakdown:   H/T to The Sin City Siren for the link to this nifty graphic of the War On Women.   Have you been checking in on The Nevada View lately.  (highly recommended)   If you missed this piece on small businesses and the battle with the Big Box stores at Blue Lyon, click over there now.

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Filed under Economy, education, Immigration, Nevada politics, Obama, Veterans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights, Yucca Mountain

Quick Picks: Bishops To Square One on Contraception

Bishops to Square One:  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is pleased to announce their “Fortnight to Freedom,” June 21 to July 4, described by the Catholic News Agency, as follows:

“The initiative was created in response to several moves by the Obama administration that are threatening the Church’s religious freedom. The most well-known action is the Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to cover birth control and other services that Catholics and other believers find morally objectionable.”

Now, what was that old line the Bishops used to find so objectionable, could it have been “They want to hang their religions around other people’s necks?”

Tax dollars are going out the back door to private schools.  This may not be what the Alliance for School Choice had in mind:

“While the scholarship programs have helped many children whose parents would have to scrimp or work several jobs to send them to private schools, the money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism, interviews and documents show. Even some private school parents and administrators have questioned whether the programs are a charade.”  [NYT]

How many didn’t believe the programs were a charade in the first place?

Solyndra and Lobbyists in Romney’s Bundle?  If an article included  “Solyndra, lobbyists, fundraising, and Romney” would you click over and read it? Would it surprise anyone that Romney has not released the names of any of his bundlers?  We could guess we’d find the list in the stack with his tax returns?

The Not Debt Crisis?  Next time some one tells you that the national debt is Crushing the Nation!!!  Ask why then have Treasuries remained low after a $35 Billion 2 yr. sale. “The securities drew a yield of 0.300 percent…”  [Bloomberg]

Meanwhile back with the “Job Craters” — JPMorganChase is being sued by employees whose retirement funds were hit by the bank’s Big At Least $3B Blunder. “The defendants were accused of violating their duties to 401(k) and other retirement plan participants by including company stock as an investment option, hiding the stock’s risk, and failing to move participants to safer choices.” [Reuters]   And about their former risk manager… there were red flags. [Reuters]

Infrastructure Anyone: The Chinese say yes.  Reuters reports:

The pace of investment in the likes of roads, bridges and real estate is running at its weakest in nearly a decade, April data showed, suggesting the world’s second-biggest economy is heading for a sixth straight quarter of slowing growth.

To provide some support the government had asked for project proposals by the end of June, even for those initially earmarked for the end of the year, said the China Securities Journal, one of the country’s top financial papers.

Citing government sources, the article said Beijing did not rule out bringing forward next year’s projects, if it thought more investments would be needed to stimulate the economy.

Meanwhile, the American Energy and Infrastructure Act  stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives. [ASCE] There is a House-Senate Committee moving on the topic in fits and starts. [VTD]

Flowing Foreclosure money?  Want to see what your state has done with settlement funds from the Big Five Banks?  Pro Publica has the information in a convenient chart.

Yucca Mountain is Still Dead.  [Las Vegas Sun]

Nevada unemployment rate drops below 12% for the first time in 3 years.  [NNBureau]

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Filed under Economy, education, energy, energy policy, financial regulation, GOP fundraising, Infrastructure, national debt, Nevada economy, Politics, Romney, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights, Yucca Mountain

Obstructionists Vow More Obstruction

 Priceless.  The Senate Republicans are threatening to bring the Senate to a “grinding halt” unless one of their members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is renominated and confirmed.  [Las Vegas Sun] This would be the same commissioner who once declared she’d “never touched” Yucca Mountain, except of course she did.  Secondly, how does one bring the current U.S. Senate to a grinding halt when it’s not going anywhere in the first place.   Have the Senate Republicans taken a look recently at the voluminous list of nominees for ANYTHING who still have their confirmations tied up in committees?

Ten nominations under the jurisdiction of the Senate Armed Services Committee who would take positions in the Pentagon or with Court of Military Commission Review are stalled.   The nomination of a person to be a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been tied up in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee since January 24th.  Four nominations are still pending from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, another three are still to be confirmed from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee list.

Six confirmation votes remain for nominees subject to the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Finance.   Twenty-two nominees have yet to get a confirmation vote who are on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee list.  Twenty-four nominees have yet to have a confirmation vote from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions listing.  Another eight nominations on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee have yet to get confirmed.

Three nominees whose candidacy goes back to March 2011 have yet to be confirmed who were subject to the jurisdiction of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.  A whopping thirty-three nominations subject to the jurisdiction of the Senate Judiciary Committee have yet to get a confirmation vote.  Three more nominations concerning Veterans Affairs still await a confirmation vote.

For all intents and purposes the list thus far already looks like a Grinding Halt. Perhaps there are nuanced differences between Grinding Halts and Screeching Halts?

On all other matters, the Senate has taken a grand total of sixty-six roll call votes since the beginning of the second session of the 112th Congress in January.  Of the sixty-six roll call votes thus far 11 were votes to break Republican filibusters, and 1 was on a “motion to proceed.”

Eighty-two notices of intent to filibuster have been filed in the 112th Congress, there have been forty-eight votes to invoke cloture, but the filibusters have  been broken only 26 times. It really is hard to imagine that a “grinding halt” would be much worse than the current “halting” pace of the  Senate.

A person might characterize inaction as a Grinding Halt, a Screeching Halt, a Total Halt, or a Complete Halt.  However, when a deliberative body has accomplished so little of its business because of endless obstruction such as that listed above, it really is hard to tell if its functions have come to any kind of Halt when it’s not moving forward in the first place.

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Filed under Filibusters, Republicans, Senate, Yucca Mountain

Coffee and the Papers

Oh my, the story concerning Nevada über-lobbyist Harvey Whittemore has all the Big Names — Ensign, Ernaut, Sandoval, Reid, Heller, Berkley — and a flight of campaign donations returned. [full story Las Vegas Sun] Perhaps leading to the conclusion that Hell hath no fury like a business partner scorned?

Someone might want to tell Senator Rubio (R-FL) that he really doesn’t get to have it both ways.  He can’t devote a full paragraph to his family’s flight from Castro’s Cuba [Rubio] in his Congressional biography, which is a little strange since his parents left in 1956* (and then attempted to return, or visited, or something in ’61),  campaign as one who  “always publicly identified with the exile community and has a strong following within it. In a campaign ad last year, he said: “As the son of exiles, I understand what it means to lose the gift of freedom,” [CSM] [WaPo] and then get touchy when Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) calls him out for stonewalling the confirmation of Mari Carmen Aponte as ambassador to El Salvador in order to pressure the Obama Administration into changing policy toward Cuba and Nicaragua. [LV Sun]  *Fidel Castro did not take over until February 16, 1959.

The Yucca Mountain Breakdown. Another slip of the tongue from Mark Amodei (R-NV2) “While nobody wants a nuclear landfill in Nevada, we probably ought to at least talk about it,” Amodei said. “Well if that is breaking ranks, then yes I did.” At which point former Nevada Governor Richard Bryan came down upon the freshman representative like a ton of toxic dirt. [full story Nevada News Bureau]  Just asking, but if nobody in Nevada wants it — what is the point of talking about it?

No matter how many Democrats jump on board, the cleverly named CPU Act is a bad idea.   The bottom line is that enactment of this legislation would cut tech workers’ pay and allow employers to cut overtime pay. [More at Economic Policy Institute]

A bankruptcy is a bankruptcy… Governor Romney is having some difficulty in Michigan with the auto bailout rhetoric.  And, then’s there’s Bain in the mix:

“The managed bankruptcies that Romney had in mind in early 2009 for the two car companies pretty clearly were liquidations that would then allow Bain Capital or other venture capital firms to buy small parts of these companies, eliminate union workers, and … I’m not sure.  A weird, incoherent ad his campaign’s been running on the local news broadcasts actually hints at the elimination-of-union-workers thing, while actually advertising that “liberals” got “Obama” to save the auto industry.  Seriously.” [Angry Bear]

Not. So. Fast.  Senator Pat Toomey (R-Club for Growth) was incensed that anyone would believe his taxation plan would require tax increases for those earning less than $200,000 annually.  Except Senator Toomey’s tax plan would require tax increases for those earning less than $200,000 annually.

“The math is irrefutable.  Senator Toomey told O’Brien that, while reducing their deductions and credits, he also would cut tax rates for people below $200,000 so that they would face no net tax increase.  But that can’t be.  If the tax plan is supposed to produce a net increase in revenues, and if it loses revenue from people making over $200,000, then it simply must raise revenue from people making less than $200,000.”  [CBPP]

Financialist Follies.  John Paulson, he of the Hedge Fund Titans who helped create the Wall Street Casino, is worried about a Greek default:

“We believe a Greek payment default could be a greater shock to the system than Lehman’s failure, immediately causing global economies to contract and markets to decline,” the hedge fund said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. The euro is “structurally flawed and will likely eventually unravel,” it said.?  [Bloomberg]

Look carefully at Paulson’s terms.  “Shock to the system” as in a shock to the financial markets.  “Causing global economies to contract” as in investment banks particularly in France and Germany will find themselves in another bind.  “Markets to decline,” at this point Paulson isn’t talking about the market for automobiles, homes, refrigerators, or agricultural products — the only “market” in which he is interested is the Stock Market.

In short, we might want to take a deep breath and contemplate what another self-induced panic by the Wall Street wizards might mean for credit access for American consumers and businesses.   Remember: Those investment banks could have invested in plant expansion, infrastructure projects, manufacturing upgrades, or entrepreneurial enterprises — it was THEIR choice to invest in Greek debt.

Brute Force, that’s how a Citigroup whistle blower described the firm’s attempt to paper over its bad loans. [C&L]

“Instead of reporting the defects to the Federal Housing Administration, the bank saddled the agency with losses by falsely declaring the loans fit for its federal insurance program, according to a complaint filed yesterday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Citigroup agreed to pay $158.3 million to settle the claims, and admitted that it certified loans for FHA backing that didn’t qualify.”  [Bloomberg]

And, how was this accomplished?

“Efforts to quash negative quality-control reports about mortgages continued into 2011, according to the complaint. That January, at a quarterly staff meeting that Hunt said 1,000 people attended, CitiMortgage managers gave a “Star Players Award” to workers who had successfully challenged negative reviews during meetings with quality-assurance workers and others, according to the complaint.”  [Bloomberg]

The press release from the Department of Justice, USAO Southern District of NY is available here for those who want more details. (pdf)

The Urban legend of those Terrible Health Care Costs.  Oops, the facts just don’t fit the narrative.

“In fact, the recent trends are mildly favorable. As J. D. Keinke of the American Enterprise Institute writes today in the Wall Street Journal, the idea of runaway health spending is a “myth” because “new data show that health spending over the past several years has been normalizing toward the rate of general inflation, rather than growing higher and higher, as had been the case almost continuously since the 1970s.” … [EconView]

Faux New tries and fails to get the author of the book on the Obama Administration to fill in the blanks with misinformation.  Find the entertaining and illuminating video here.

WalkerGate gets more interesting as investigators are probing into the possibility of real estate bid rigging in Wisconsin while Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive. [BlueCheddar] [MJS 1/25] Walker has asked for two more weeks for reviewing recall petitions. [MJS]  This, while a three judge federal panel excoriated Wisconsin Republican lawmakers and told them:

“…to turn over 84 documents to a group of Democrats in a blistering order that said Republicans had engaged in an “all but shameful” effort to keep its efforts hidden from the public.

The court promptly released the documents that showed, among other things, that Republicans who drew new election maps last year largely orchestrated the public testimony given in support of them.

The three federal judges – two of them appointed by Republicans – were unanimous in their decision. It came after a string of orders against the Republicans and just five days be fore the judges will preside over a trial in Milwaukee to determine whether the maps adhere to the U.S. Constitution. [MJS]

But, the saddest feature of the attacks on Wisconsin citizens and their rights is to be found in this article, including:

“Before Sunday’s sermon in many churches in Milwaukee, ministers and religious leaders will ask those sitting in the pews to pull out their photo identification as a step to make sure that their members can vote in Tuesday’s primary election.” [MJS]

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Filed under Amodei, Berkley, Ensign, Health Care, Heller, labor, Reid, Romney, Sandoval, tax revenue, Taxation, Vote Suppression, Yucca Mountain

Coffee and the Papers: Yucca, Dust, and More

** The infamous Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository idea is still dead.  Although, two members of the Nevada Congressional contingent, Representatives Amodei (R-NV2) and Heck (R-NV3), are cuddling up to the “research park” idea.  [Las Vegas Sun]    Senior members of the Congressional delegation are unimpressed:

“Rep. Shelly Berkley says the four NRC members targeting Jaczko are simply trying to “turn our state into a radioactive wasteland,” while Sen. Dean Heller complained that the commissioners “should be focusing on the safety of the American public, not internal politics.”

Although there are many important safety issues at play in this fight, an important subtext — as Berkley and Heller recognize — are attempts by the industry and its allies to stall for time with the hope that a new president revives the Yucca Mountain project.”  [Full Article Las Vegas Sun]

** The Righthaven litigation shop continues maneuvering through the bankruptcy process.  It’s still too early to declare the outfit a dead zone.  [Las Vegas Sun]

** Does one member of the Nevada Board of Economic Development want the Brookings Institution to do its work for it?  Brookings reported on economic diversification (or the lack thereof) in Nevada, most Board members seem willing to use the report and other state generated information to prepare a plan.  [Nevada News Bureau]  Would diversification come more easily if we weren’t being ‘mugged’ by casinos? [NVEmpFocus]

** Nye Gateway has the run-down on votes by the Nevada Congressional Delegation.   One of the votes is particularly interesting — Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of H.R. 1633, an act to prevent revision of Clean Air regulations regarding ambient nuisance dust created as a result of farming activity.   The problem?  There is NO regulation of “farm dust” under consideration.  [Reuters] [McCarthy, EPA testimony, pdf]

** The Nevada View amplifies economist Paul Krugman’s conclusion that income inequality of the magnitude experienced in the United States at the moment is bad for democracy.   No surprises here, Citigroup’s 2006 analysis in their infamous Plutonomy Memos is well known, and are items the corporation is now trying desperately to suppress.   Good luck, as anyone who has hit “send” on a questionable text, tweet, or e-mail can attest — once in the Internet Pipeline “stuff” is forever.

** Nevada Progressive looks at the fumbling, stumbling Romney campaign and its chances in the Silver State.  Washington Monthly looks at yet another Flippity Flop from the ever-transforming candidate.

** The Sin City Siren passes along information from the National Women’s Law Center concerning the necessity of extending pay roll tax cuts, including the following: “A failure to extend unemployment insurance will hurt women–with an estimated 2.6 million women affected by the UI extension.  Further, Ellie reports that Dr. Adriana Kugler, chief economist for the Dept. of Labor, said that 2.2 million women, 900,000 Latinos, 1.2 million African Americans, and 3.6 million children will be directly affected by the failure to extend unemployment insurance benefits by Dec 31.”  (emphasis in original)

** From The Department of No Surprises:  Gingrich’s tax plan would codify lower taxes for the rich than for the middle class. [TPM full story] Rick Perry’s tax proposal would cut taxes for the ultra-rich. [TP full story]  Mitt Romney’s tax plan benefits the ultra-rich whose income is derived from capital gains, inheritance (where he got his start), and speculation. (Can we say Bain Capital Management?)  [PolicyShop]

** Bark Bark… has an interesting analysis of Newt Gingrich’s “invented people” narrative: It’s part of the dog whistle to signal an “Attack on White Male Supremacy.”   “Others” aren’t legitimate, “others” are invented, “others” aren’t White Males of European Descent.  “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.” [To Have and Have Not, 1944]

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Filed under Amodei, Berkley, Heck, Heller, Taxation, Yucca Mountain

Amodei’s Magical Thinking Extends to Yucca Mountain

The lyrics to Jude’s song seem appropriate for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository:

It only hurts me when I’m awake, it seems to die with dreaming, and there’s only so much that I can fake when my whole life’s careening down. I will not die.

The problems already associated with the dump (1) questionable location, (2) transportation safety and security issues, (3) operational and administrative issues, and (4) financial issues, haven’t been addressed to the satisfaction of most Nevadans.  However, that hasn’t stopped the nuclear industry and its Republican allies in Congress.

“Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) on Thursday signaled that the House Energy & Commerce Committee would continue to press the issue of reopening the Yucca Mountain Waste Repository in Nevada as a storage site for nuclear waste, fresh from his tour of the facility this week.” [The Hill 4/28/11]

The Republicans, newly minted Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) included,  seem to have glommed onto a “jobs” plan for a waste dump + reprocessing plant.  [LVSun]

There’s a glitch in this argument, “re-processing” doesn’t solve the nuclear waste problem:

The idea behind reprocessing is that spent fuel can be enriched and used again in the nuclear fuel cycle.  Nuclear advocates like to compare this to “recycling” and that reprocessing will decrease the levels of spent fuel waste.  These claims are completely false.

Not only will reprocessing not solve the waste problem, it will actually make it worse.  Reprocessing spent fuel involves treating the waste with nitric acid and other strong chemicals which creates huge volumes of liquid radioactive waste.  The Department of Energy estimates that reprocessing spent fuel will result in a 6-fold increase in total waste volume compared to the direct disposal of spent fuel. [CWOrg] (emphasis added)

But wait! Aren’t the French reprocessing nuclear waste? Yes, no, and without much success:

As French government and others studies have shown reprocessing does not solve the nuclear waste problem – it amplifies it. Since the origins of the French nuclear industry some 50 years ago, the management of nuclear waste has been largely neglected. Even today, large quantities of waste remain in unconditioned and unstable form, inventories of historical dump sites are lacking or were lost and one of the largest dump sites in the world near the la Hague reprocessing plant is leaking into the underground water. [CitOrg pdf]

Citing the French “success” is also problematic because of the varying definitions of what IS nuclear waste, and the extent to which the reports of “success” are predicated on the economic needs of the region around la Hague. [NYT]

And, reprocessing is expensive:

“Reprocessing and the use of plutonium as reactor fuel are also far more expensive than using uranium fuel and disposing of the spent fuel directly. In the United States, some 60,000 tons of nuclear waste have already been produced, and existing reactors add some 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel annually. The Energy Department recently released an industry estimate that a reprocessing plant with an annual capacity of 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel would cost up to $20 billion to build—and the U.S. would need two of these to reprocess all its spent fuel. An Argonne National Laboratory scientist recently estimated that the cost premium for reprocessing spent fuel would range from 0.4 to 0.6 cents per kilowatt-hour—corresponding to an extra $3 to $4.5 billion per year for the current U.S. nuclear reactor fleet. The American public would end up having to pay this charge, either through increased taxes or higher electricity bills.”  [UCSUSA](emphasis added)

Thus we have a “solution” to the nuclear waste storage issue that doesn’t solve the problem, doesn’t save anyone any money, and may create more problems than it solves.

There is an alternative, as described by Rep. Shelly Berkley (D-NV1):

“Whether it’s the dump’s $100 billion cost, Nevada’s decades of opposition or the deadly transportation risks it will inflict on our nation, we need to end spending now on Yucca Mountain’s rotting corpse,” said Berkley.  “We should be moving now to require nuclear operators to secure waste in dry cask storage at existing sites.  These hardened containers can keep waste safely isolated for the next 100 years while we find a real solution to addressing our nation’s nuclear waste stockpiles.”

The real solution is to find another source for our electricity generation in the 21st century other than the mid 20th century flirtation with nuclear power.

Arguments like “there’s no Sun at night, and what if the wind stops blowing” are downright silly considering the advancements in solar and wind source technologies.   Worse still, focusing on nuclear power while the rest of the world moves forward makes no economic sense.  To wit:

“Suntech, China’s largest solar cell and panel maker, signed an agreement with CDB for up to 50 billion yuan ($7.33 billion) worth of loans over five years, Rory Macpherson, Suntech’s director for investor relations, told Reuters on Wednesday.” Such deals are unfolding as China aggressively develops its renewable energy sector and as its companies play catch-up with bigger global peers including German solar cell producer Q-Cells AG and Spanish wind farm operator Iberdrola, which have built up solid track records, also with help from more than a decade of government subsidies. [Reuters 4/2010]

Failure to put additional effort into 21st century energy technologies is roughly analogous to having the United States subsidize the buggy whip manufacturers while the rest of the major industrial nations are making automatic transmissions.

The job creation on which we should be focusing are relatively obvious: Nevada has plenty of sunlight and lots of wind — we could be part of the solution instead of remaining part of the problem.

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Filed under Amodei, Berkley, Yucca Mountain

Amodei’s Latest Waffle: Yucca Mountain

Trying to get a straight answer out of Nevada Congressional District 2 candidate Mark Amodei is evidently more difficult than attempting to undo the Gordian Knot.  This time it’s Yucca Mountain.  [LVSun] Instead of taking the stance adopted by appointed Senator Dean Heller, Senator Harry Reid, and Representative Shelley Berkley, in opposition to the controversial facility, Amodei’s waffling toward the proposals of Tea Party Republican Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV3) — i.e. we should “do something with it.”   Amodei: “Why can’t we do the R&D for reprocessing here? Why can’t we do a best practices center here? Why can’t we do nuclear safety here?” Amodei asked rhetorically. “I think there are opportunities to make that something other than a nuclear landfill.

Perhaps because (1) the reprocessing notion requires the same transportation of nuclear waste through Nevada that Amodei says he opposes?  Or, (2) because the current proposals require massive amounts of water — which we don’t have?

Candidate Amodei’s attempts to be everything to everyone could as easily produce a candidate who is nothing to anyone?

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Filed under Amodei, Nevada politics, Yucca Mountain

Nevada GOP dancing to the Yucca Mountain Breakdown

If it’s Nevada politics it must be Yucca Mountain.  The race for the Congressional District 2 seat brings some proponents of Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository operations to the fore on the Republican side.

Nevada GOP chair Mark Amodei says he thinks something ought to be done at the site. “But Amodei could break with the solid opposition to the Yucca Mountain project among the Nevada congressional delegation.  “You got an investment in that. I’m of the opinion don’t turn it into a landfill. You got the investment out there. The challenge is to turn that into a job and revenue creator type of thing in terms of the reprocessing, R and D, whatever the heck is set up,” he told the Pahrump Valley Times.”  [PVT]  This appears to be the Whatever-The-Heck we can do with it proposal.

First term State Senator Greg Brower has a rather more extensive statement on energy in which he wants to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, emphasize conservation, and promote exploration.  He’s also in favor of increasing wind, solar, and geothermal sources.  [Brower] We might call this the something for everyone proposal.

Political newcomer Kirk Lippold said he thought two nuclear power plants should be built on the Nuclear Test Site, and Yucca Mountain should be developed as a reprocessing facility. [LVRJ]  We could call this the dust off the old Jon Porter plan proposal.

All three GOP candidates haven’t exactly been blinded by the science at the Yucca Mountain site.  There are reasons the state has opposed the creation of a nuclear waste repository at that location and these objections have been spelled out clearly since 1998. [NV-Yucca Mtn 98]

Let’s review for a moment.  The Yucca Mountain site is hydrologically, hydrothermically, and geologically active.  Those are three obvious problems for a proposed location of a repository for 77,000 tons of the most toxic stuff we could store, and which would require complete containment for 10,000 years.   Why anyone would want to put anything nuclear there whether for storage or processing doesn’t make much sense because  we may at some point have to face the fact that the site was a lousy choice in the first place. It may take the ingestion of some pride, but the site wasn’t a good option and it’s time to move on.

The next issue to consider is that nuclear energy is a 20th century answer to 21st century energy issues.  To use a merely illustrative analogy, seeking to promote nuclear energy is tantamount to arguing about improving carburetors in an era of fuel injected engines.

The old technologies (light water) and the newer ones (pebble bed reactors) [OF.org] are still firmly based in 20th century thinking, and far from being a major source of power all the plants on the planet only produce about 12% of the world’s electrical energy supply.  [DU] The Germans have already decided to end their nuclear power operations by 2022. [BBC] Continuing to promote nuclear power plants will no doubt have us chanting “We’re Number Two or Whatever” after other industrial nations have surpassed us in the technologies necessary to generate power from renewable sources.  Or, to use another illustrative analogy, continuing to saddle up Old Dobbin against the fresh young colts in the derby isn’t a winning proposition.

As for reprocessing the waste from this 20th century energy generating system, there are three more problems to contend with — it’s dangerous, it’s dirty, and it’s expensive.   Scientists have asserted: “While some supporters of a U.S. reprocessing program believe it would help solve the nuclear waste problem, reprocessing would not reduce the need for storage and disposal of radioactive waste. Worse, reprocessing would make it easier for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons materials, and for nations to develop nuclear weapons programs. ” (emphasis added)   Lovely, not only does this not solve the storage issue, commercial reprocessing makes more nuclear material more readily available, potentially to those we’d prefer not to see obtaining “it.”

And, it’s dirty: “The largest component of the remaining material is uranium, which is also a waste product because it is contaminated and undesirable for reuse in reactors. Even if the uranium is classified as low-level waste, new low-level nuclear waste facilities would have to be built to dispose of it. And to make a significant reduction in the amount of high-level nuclear waste that would require disposal, the used fuel would need to be reprocessed and reused many times with an extremely high degree of efficiency—an extremely difficult endeavor that would likely take centuries to accomplish.”  Thus, we can spend centuries trying to efficiently reprocess nuclear plant waste, or we can direct our resources toward more modern forms of renewable power generation.

And, it’s expensive:  “An Argonne National Laboratory scientist recently estimated that the cost premium for reprocessing spent fuel would range from 0.4 to 0.6 cents per kilowatt-hour—corresponding to an extra $3 to $4.5 billion per year for the current U.S. nuclear reactor fleet. The American public would end up having to pay this charge, either through increased taxes or higher electricity bills. ” Increased taxes and higher electricity bills are supposedly what we’re trying to avoid.

Former Nevada Congressman Jon Porter made a 2008 junket to France to see how their nuclear reprocessing scheme worked, [LVSun] and he returned from the trip advising that the University of Nevada should launch research projects on nuclear reprocessing technologies. Porter called eventually transforming Yucca Mountain into a reprocessing operation a “viable option.” [LVRJ] There was probably a reason for Porter’s relative silence on the matter thereafter, because by 2010 the non-partisan and independent IEER issued its report on the problematic nature of applying the French example to actual American nuclear problems.

The IEER report (pdf) found that the French reprocessing operations on a “life cycle basis increased the volume of waste which would require geologic storage; the French were spending 2 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity because of the reprocessing expense; attempting to combine breeder reactors to convert uranium in U.S. spent fuel in plutonium will
create intolerable costs and risks; Adoption of French-style reprocessing program would not eliminate the need for a deep geologic repository; and, Proliferation risks are inherently part of the French (and any other) approach to reprocessing.”  So, we’re right back to (1) It’s dangerous, (2) It’s dirty, and (3) It’s expensive.  …and it doesn’t solve the storage problem.

Now we have the specter of at least three Republican candidates for the congressional seat vacated by Senator Dean Heller all promising, in one form or another, to be faithful to outdated energy technologies and to stand resolutely in the 20th century as we move forward into the 21st.

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>Speculation? Pro-Yucca Dump Buzzards Circling Nevada Elections

>Let’s see now. Nevada has been “threatened” with becoming the nation’s nuclear waste dump site since 1988. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) represents a state with the Palo Verde Nuclear Power facility. And, one Senator John McCain makes a speech in favor of the election of challenger Sharron Angle for the Nevada Senate seat. [Las Vegas Sun] Now, who would benefit? Certainly not Nevada, the prospect of a nuclear dump hard by a major metropolitan area that depends on tourism isn’t a pleasant scenario.

Some corporations would, indeed, benefit, such as Fluor Corporation which proudly announces on its website: “With a renewed interest among governments and the public in nuclear power, Fluor is uniquely qualified to provide design-build services for a new generation of nuclear plants, as well as major modifications to the existing fleet. With more than 9,000 experienced nuclear professionals and nine nuclear construction projects safely completed, Fluor stands ready to meet the global demand for nuclear energy.  Fluor has remained active in the commercial nuclear market, pioneering the first steam generator replacement project, retrofitting spent nuclear fuel pools to increase storage capacity, and executing more than 80 million work hours at 60 U.S. nuclear units in capital work, engineering/technical services, and refueling outage support.  The company continues to develop expertise in engineering, procurement, construction, and maintenance (EPCM) for nuclear facilities, as well as approaches for incorporating nuclear licensing requirements and risk management into all aspects of design, procurement, construction, testing, and startup.”  Now, we’d ask, might there be a little Fluor money pouring into the efforts of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads funding funnel for Sharron Angle’s campaign? [TP]

How about Bechtel? Might that corporation have an interest in promoting a candidate supportive of the nuclear plant construction sector?  Probably, according to the Wall Street Journal: ” Engineering and construction giant Bechtel Corp. is expected to disclose Wednesday that it will partner with nuclear vendor Babcock & Wilcox Co. to bring a small, commercial reactor design to market. Closely held Bechtel declined to reveal its investment in the venture other than to say it is “substantial” and affirms its optimism about prospects for new plant designs that could make nuclear power affordable to smaller utilities and get new plants into operation faster.  Under the partnership, Bechtel will help Babcock complete the design of a modular reactor, called mPower, and seek necessary approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin sales in the U.S.  Bechtel, of San Francisco, will have exclusive responsibility for engineering, procuring key components and building the plants. The companies have not yet said what the likely cost of plants using the modular design would be.” We do know that Steve Bechtel was a participant in one of the Koch Brothers sponsored Aspen meetings, and the Koch Brothers are aligned with American Crossroads. [WashIndy]

Then there is CH2ML which says, “CH2M HILL provides a full range of services for new nuclear facility development, from siting and licensing to design and construction management, and full service engineer-procure-construct (EPC) project delivery. We have experience with nuclear facility design and safety issues, and interacting with industry, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) the US Department of Energy (DOE), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and other US and international regulatory agencies.”  Wonder if this corporation would like to have a Senator amenable to nuclear waste dump sites in Nevada?

Northrop Grumman may be looking for a way to reduce its losses from the collapse of financial negotiations described as follows: “Other companies with plans that might be affected by a collapse of the Constellation-EDF partnership include Ameren Corp., the St. Louis-based utility owner that has proposed building an Areva-designed reactor, and Northrop Grumman Corp., which proposed a plant in Virginia to build parts for Areva reactors, Seitz said.”  So, Northrup Grumman would like to partner with other nuclear plant facilitators from France?  I seem to remember a junket taken by former Nevada Congressman Jon Porter to view “nuclear facilities in France” not all that long ago. [DB 2/2008] Far from being purely speculative that at least these three corporation might be more than happy to see a “Pro-Yucca” candidate elected to the U.S. Senate from Nevada, it would be logical to assume that each would contribute to a person sympathetic to their plans to increase the production of nuclear energy in this country — and, to find a nice “remote” place to store the waste — in Nevada.

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>Congresswoman Berkley: Dump Yucca

>Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV) is citing a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (pdf) which recommends that high level nuclear waste be retained in interim storage facilities for — at least the next century. This will be another blow to the advocates, senatorial candidate Sharron Angle included, of dumping nuclear ‘excrement’ in Nevada. The Congresswoman also incorporated a handy list of items the dump cheerleaders have yet to address. It’s worth a review:

The race to turn Nevada into a nuclear waste dump is being led by Republicans like John Boehner who eagerly embrace Yucca Mountain despite its $100 billion price tag and the risk it poses to families and communities all across the nation,” said Berkley. “This new MIT report shatters the nuclear industry myth that there is an urgent need to dump nuclear waste in Nevada when it can be safely stored at existing locations for the next 100 years. And it shows that America can take the time needed to find a real answer to the nuclear waste issue that does not involve burying radioactive garbage next to Las Vegas for the next one million years. Just this week, the nation’s nuclear regulators extended the time period that high-level waste can be stored on-site by an additional 30 years. This change, which was endorsed by the nuclear industry’s top trade association, eliminates one more barrier to moving forward on replacing the failed Yucca Mountain project with a safe, affordable blueprint for truly securing nuclear waste.” (Berkley)

ISSUES YUCCA MOUNTAIN BACKERS REFUSE TO DISCUSS

$100 Billion Budget-Busting Price Tag: The Department of Energy has forecast Yucca Mountain’s total cost will reach $100 billion. A decade ago, DOE estimated it would cost only $28 billion. The fact remains that no one knows the true final price tag for what would be one of the most expensive projects ever undertaken by the federal government. While billions have already gone into failed efforts to open Yucca, the dump’s current final price tag is nearly ten times what’s already been spent. Our nation cannot afford more reckless spending on a $100 billion bloated-budget project that is more than 20 years behind schedule and threatens the safety of Americans.

Decades of Transportation Dangers: On a daily basis for decades, lethal high-level nuclear waste would be shipped through residential communities in more than 40 states and hundreds of Congressional Districts, close to schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and houses of worship. Each of these shipments represents the distinct possibility for a catastrophic accident or incident of terrorist sabotage. One incident involving deadly nuclear waste could unleash radioactive contamination the likes of which our nation has never faced before. The sheer number of fiery crashes on America’s highways and reoccurring accidents involving rail shipments demand we not ignore this very real threat to thousands of communities along waste transportation routes.

* One element suggested but not directly addressed in this list is the practicality of depending on the resources of Nevada’s rural local and county governments to address the possibility of a nuclear waste accident in transit. Advocates of the dump assert that we have “miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles…” but this sparse population argument brings with it the associated issue — What resources are Humboldt, Lander, or Lincoln Counties supposed to bring to bear to respond to a nuclear waste release? How are rural Nevada counties to train responders and with what equipment and resources? If the local governments are not to be the emergency responders, how much damage can be done as nuclear material remains “leaking” while we wait for a federal responders to make it to the scene?

Yucca Dump is Geologically Unsafe: Yucca Mountain is on a fault line subject to major earthquakes. This scenario could easily result in the release of massive amounts of radioactivity. Only two years ago it was revealed that planners for the dump actually had to make substantial changes because the fault line was located even closer than previously thought. The release of this amount of radioactivity would threaten the water supplies and the environment of the population centers of the entire Southwest.* *Not convinced? Take a look at the Quarternary Faults shown on the interactive map from UNR. Don’t think we get earthquakes? Ask the residents of Wells, NV about that.

On-Site Storage Offers True 100 Year Solution Today: On-site storage is available as a means to safeguard waste while a true solution is developed. Experts and regulators agree that by using hardened dry-cask storage containers, waste can be secured for the next 100 years. This avoids the transportation dangers and eliminates the need to spend $100 billion on Yucca Mountain at a time when our nation is still recovering from an economic crisis.

Storage On-Site Safe for New Nuclear Plants, Safe at Existing Locations
: Under the law, no new reactor waste can come to Nevada. New nuclear plants will be required to keep their high-level waste on-site for decades under current contracts. The nuclear industry and its allies support this method of securing waste at new nuclear plants and it can be used to safely do the same at existing facilities.

A False Solution: Even if Yucca Mountain were built, waste would still remain in communities for decades awaiting transport to Nevada. More importantly, as long as a nuclear plant is producing energy, nuclear waste will still remain at reactor sites in communities across the country. So unless a reactor is 100% shut down, radioactive waste will continue to build up at any nuclear plant. And no magic wand can be used to suddenly transport waste all at once to the proposed dump. It is critical to understand that even if Yucca is completed, the Department of Energy has stated waste shipments could take a half-century before cities and towns would see existing waste stockpiles removed.

Yucca Based on Flawed Science: The law requires that Yucca Mountain’s geology alone would protect Americans from the high-level nuclear waste to be stored there. But as scientists discovered that Yucca Mountain could not meet the standards set forth by Congress, nuclear waste project managers began unilaterally changing the rules in order to overcome flaws in the site. For example, once it had been determined that water would penetrate Yucca Mountain, plans were altered to include the use of robots to install high-tech umbrellas. A clear lack of technology also continues to plague plans for Yucca Mountain, including the fact that no canister exists that is capable of containing high-level radioactive waste given the rapid corrosion that studies have shown will occur once inside the dump. As casks corrode, radioactivity will be released, tainting essential water supplies.

Yucca Means Higher Energy Costs for Consumers:
Families in nuclear states pay higher energy bills as a result of the monthly tax added to cover the cost of Yucca Mountain. Continued spending on Yucca Mountain will only raise energy costs for consumers as they are forced to cover the skyrocketing cost of the proposed dump.

Ending Yucca Won’t Force Nuclear Waste on Other States:
Proponents of Yucca Mountain falsely claim that eliminating Yucca Mountain will force nuclear waste to be moved. Nothing in the law requires that South Carolina, Washington or other states be forced to take additional nuclear waste.

Nuclear Operators Say No Need: Nuclear plants are already utilizing dry-cask storage and operators say there has been no effect on power production as a result of waste remaining at nuclear plants.

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