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Labor to Help Determine Policy on Nuclear Waste


February 4, 2010

Nuke Plant

The United States’ spent nuclear fuel will no longer be designated for a cask deep inside a controversial mountain in Nevada. Facing decades-long united opposition in the state, Yucca Mountain will not be the receptacle for the nation’s nuclear waste, President Obama has decided.

But what to do with the material quickly filling temporary storage spaces in the country’s nuclear plants is a looming question, affecting the viability of current and future nuclear facilities.

That question will be debated by a new 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Among the presidential appointees is Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, President Mark Ayers, who is also a member of Peoria, Ill., Local 34. He said:

America’s building trades unions have considerable knowledge and expertise to offer when it comes to making sure that nuclear energy provides clean, safe, affordable and reliable power to American businesses and consumers.

The commission is part of a comprehensive review by the Energy Department of policies for managing the issues associated with spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. It will provide advice and make recommendations on issues, including storage, processing and disposal of civilian and defense spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The body is co-chaired by Lee Hamilton, former member of Congress, and Brent Scowcroft, who was national security advisor to President George H.W. Bush.

Its members will provide an interim report within 18 months and a final report in two years.

The IBEW and a growing number of people envision a larger role for nuclear energy as a non-carbon form of electricity generation. IBEW Utility Department Director Jim Hunter said with the Yucca Mountain project dead, the federal government has an obligation to find an alternative.

Hunter said:

One of the obstacles to new plants is what happens to waste. There are a lot of options for handling it. But if we don’t find a solution to the waste issue, it’s going to impede us from building new plants.


Photo used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user James Marvin Phelps (mandj98).