The Spokesman-Review


Politicking wastes time on nuclear waste issue

The following editorial appeared in the Seattle Times on Nov. 19. It does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.

It’s confirmed. Four Nuclear Regulatory Commission members cast their votes months ago on the question of whether the Obama administration can unilaterally cancel the nation’s deep geological nuclear-waste repository. But the votes have been kept secret apparently for political reasons.

Attribute the holdup to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who seems to have done everything he can to game the process and keep the question about Yucca Mountain from a more credible proceeding in federal court.

Congress designated the site 100 miles from Las Vegas as the destination for the nation’s commercial nuclear waste and high-level defense waste, such as that now at Hanford in southeastern Washington.

The NRC’s own licensing board in June ruled that, no indeed, the Obama administration cannot flout the will of Congress. The question before the NRC is whether to affirm or overturn that ruling – a decision needed before the Washington Circuit Court of Appeals will take up related litigation.

Washington state, South Carolina and others have sued.

The bizarre political maneuverings at the NRC have given the agency long renowned for its straight-shooting credibility a black eye. Though the vote remains secret, Jaczko has ordered repository scientists to stop a near-complete study. The agency’s inspector general says he’s looking into the matter at the behest of a former commissioner.

Four of the commissioners – a fifth recused himself – voted by Sept. 15, as they each confirmed in recent letters to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Jaczko, who voted Aug. 26, said he withdrew his vote and revoted Oct. 29 – just days before his patron, former boss and fervent opponent of Yucca Mountain, Sen. Harry Reid, barely fended off a tough Nov. 2 challenge.

Speculation is rampant the NRC vote did not go Jaczko’s way. We can’t help but think that if it had, the public would have been notified by a breathless news release around Sept. 15. Heck, Reid could have touted it in his campaign brochures.

Enough stalling, Chairman Jaczko. Time to publish this opinion so this very serious national matter can be settled in a more credible venue.

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