In April of this year Jim Howard, Chairman of Northern States Power Company and the Nuclear Energy Institute (a lobbing organization for the nuclear power industry) sent the following editorial opinion to the Washington Post. Among other issues, the letter takes issue with an editorial by the Post that rejects a pending bill in Congress known as the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997 -- S.104. This bill would establish an interim storage site in Nevada for spent nuclear fuel generated by the nuclear power industry.
Mr. Howard's letter is followed by a response editorial by Robert Loux, Executive Director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. Mr. Loux notes that Mr. Howard should be ashamed for sending a self serving and inaccurate letter to the Post. He also suggests that it's time for the nuclear industry to accept the responsibility for the byproducts of nuclear power and to stop trying to shift this responsibility to others.
The nation faces a critical need to resolve the nuclear waste disposal issue. A recent editorial in The Post [April 18] recognizes this need to act but rejects the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997, S. 104, and offers no realistic alternative. The courts have strongly affirmed that the federal government has a legal and contractual obligation to take spent fuel beginning in 1998. Meanwhile, the Clinton administration steadfastly refuses to acknowledge this responsibility and at the same time accepts, transports and stores foreign reactor fuel.
The approach taken by this bill fills a void created by the administration's inaction. Any alternative that indefinitely keeps spent nuclear fuel at utility sites is unacceptable and shortsighted. In fact, an interim storage facility is needed now, and Yucca Mountain, Nevada is an excellent location. Constructing the interim storage facility there will not and should not determine whether the permanent repository is ultimately sited at Yucca; that is a separate issue.
Recent talk of compensation for on-site reactor storage at nuclear power plants signals to all states that the government has no intention of moving spent nuclear fuel. This is likely to lead to the premature shutdown of one of Northern States Power Co.'s nuclear plants at a cost of billions to our customers. This approach would also lead to the de facto creation of nuclear waste storage sites at every nuclear facility around the country instead of one centralized facility.
The administration's approach should rightly baffle citizens nationwide. The government made a promise, forced electricity customers to pay into the federal Nuclear Waste Fund (more than $13 billion, so far), now says "no deal" and proposes to compensate them with a portion of the very money they paid to solve the problem in the first place.
The time for action is now. More and more it appears the administration is either knowingly or unknowingly playing ball with those who simply want to strangle nuclear power and remove it from our nation's energy future. Further, it is difficult to understand why the administration is helping Korean, Russian and other foreign nuclear programs while failing to support this vital U.S. industry, which the government once enthusiastically encouraged.
S. 104 deserves the support of all Americans. In the absence of a prompt legislative solution, the Department of Energy and the administration may find a court-ordered solution onerous. The administration must come up with a plan that once and for all provides our customers and the nation the results they expect and deserve from their government in managing this country's spent nuclear fuel.
Chairman, President and CEO
Northern States Power Company, and
Chairman, Nuclear Energy Institute
Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
Agency For Nuclear
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Meg Greenfield, Editorial Page Editor
The Washington Post
115015th Street, N.W.
Washington. DC 20071
Dear Ms. Greenfield:
The letter to the editor (April 22, 1997) "Where to Store Nuclear Waste", is self serving and inaccurate. Mr. Howard, you should be ashamed. This coming from an industry that has received more federal government hand outs, subsidies and welfare than any other industry in American history. The Clinton Administration has taken the only responsible position possible, that is, don't begin moving thousands of tons of the world's most deadly garbage around the country until we ultimately know where it will be permanently buried. Seems simple enough.
And, Mr. Howard unless you and every other nuclear power plant operator is planing to immediately and permanently close down your reactors and not generate anymore waste, then building an interim storage facility, as you are advocating, just increases the number of locations where nuclear waste is stored by one. The reality is that waste will continue to be generated and stored at your reactor sites, so nuclear waste storage sites will exist at every reactor site whether an interim storage facility is built or not.
Maybe that is why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified, by rule, that every reactor site in the country can safely store nuclear waste in dry storage for up to 140 years, in 20 year increments, as safely as in a permanent repository.
Mr. Howard, isn't this really about the continuation of government welfare for your industry, and not about health and safety? Whining about what the government promised or not is childish and unproductive, and seems to be the hallmark of your industry. Isn't it time for you to accept responsibility for your actions and live with byproducts of your industry and stop trying to shift responsibility to others.
ROBERT R. LOUX
Return to the
Nuclear Waste Project Office
State of Nevada
Nuclear Waste Project Office
Carson City, NV 89710
(702) 687-3744 voice
(702) 687-5277 fax