By Michael Mariotte

Likely transport routes and amounts of radwaste that would be sent to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, if that proposal should be resurrected.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has a new generation of leadership; “larger than life” John Kotek is promoting nuclear energy via selling a “durable solution” to the problem of deadly radioactive waste that is the direct result of generating electric power from the heat of fission. Without a perceived solution to handling this existential problem, promotion of more nuclear energy usually falls on deaf ears. After all, wastes that will be a hazard to all life on Earth over the next million years, even when contained, do pose a threat. And the DOE’s track record on radioactive waste, exemplified by the failed Yucca Mountain project, hardly inspires confidence.

So Kotek has a new plan: volunteers. He wants states and communities to “consent” to storing nuclear waste in their jurisdictions. His process? Hold a bunch of meetings to put out the “welcome mat,” and work to get Congress to gut the existing Nuclear Waste Policy Act, greasing the skids for two locations where nuclear corporations are volunteering rural areas of New Mexico and Texas for new waste sites.

I went to Atlanta on Monday, April 11, to participate in one of these public meetings, the third in a series of nine that the DOE is hosting across the U.S. Next up is Sacramento this month, on Chernobyl Day (April 26) in fact. That will be followed by Denver, Boston, Tempe, Boise, and Minneapolis–about every two weeks until the end of July. Go here for dates, times and locations as well as registration information.

The Atlanta meeting was surreal. Half the room were career nuclear waste professionals, including myself…we all recognize each other and can pretty much predict exactly what each will say…who needs a meeting? Nearly a third of the room is paid meeting staff—many crossovers from the DOE’s two-year “Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future” (or “BRC”) now sporting consulting firm names like “North Wind.” Long-time NRC facilitator Chip Cameron is on the team.

Georgia Governor Perdue opened the session asking us to “solve the waste problem now, and don’t leave it to our grandchildren.” I wanted to yell it was too late for that, since no matter what this was is going to be around for thousands of generations to come! He was followed by Kotek since the video of Secretary of Energy Moniz malfunctioned. Then a four-person panel gave short viewpoints. Mindy Goldstein, from the Turner Law Clinic did a great job, talking fast to get in as many points as possible. She was bracketed by a man named Bubba with the Public Service Commission of Georgia, Rick McLeod, top advocate for everything nuclear over at the Savannah River Site (DOE nuclear-bomb production site), and a social-science professor who seems to believe that DOE is acting in good faith. He assumes that the Department actually intends to launch a full-scale community-based negotiated “consent” process. Later, this professor is …read more

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