Harry Reid’s Monument to Political Patronage

“Yucca Mountain is dead,” Senator Harry Reid said in a radio interview the day he announced his retirement.

For more than a decade, Reid used his leadership position to block Yucca Mountain, which Congress designated as the nation’s permanent disposal site for high-level nuclear waste in 1987.  This despite more than 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel being stored near reactors in 33 states, an amount expected to double in 30 years.

Since there is no permanent disposal facility, spent fuel from the nation’s nuclear reactors, ‘enough to fill a football field 17 meters deep’ will double to 140,000 by 2055 when all the current operating reactors are to be ‘retired.’

A National Law Journal reports adds that the Department of Energy (DOE) spent $929 million in 2014 that “to settle breach-of-contract claims involving the storage of spent nuclear fuel.”  The federal Judgment Fund, described as a “permanent, indefinite appropriation, exempt from annual congressional approval,” covers the cost of this litigation.

All of this goes back to Reid, who ‘handpicked’ Gregory Jaczko to be the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009. Jaczko has done everything to block Yucca Mountain and as a result the federal government has continually been in breach of contract.

The DOE paid more than $4 billion over the past four years for these contract breaches . And until recently has collected about $759 million a year from companies to fund the repository, until a federal appellate court halted the collections because there wasn’t a waste repository being built.

Jaczko eventually resigned after withholding information to keep plans for Yucca Mountain from advancing.

Reid also helped convince President Obama to drop the Bush administration’s defense of the application for Yucca, and create a policy that any nuclear waste site needs the consent of the local and state governments. This decision not only kept 72,000 tons of highly radioactive waste spread across the U.S. at a stand still, the closure of the site cost $12 billion by the time of its shutdown.

The Reid-Obama deal forced nuclear power plants to build temporary (40 years) on-site spent-fuel storage structures to keep operating. These ‘temporary’ facilities cost ratepayers millions of dollars since they have to be guarded for as long as used nuclear fuel is present.

In return, Reid blocked nearly all amendments to legislation to shield Obama from having to veto bills. Because of this, Reid also effectively nullified the Senate’s constitutional function.


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