Yucca Mountain: The 'Scientization' Of Politics
    By Hank Campbell | October 14th 2011 12:51 PM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    We've all heard of politicizing science, like when tobacco companies cast doubt on the scientific evidence for a connection between tobacco and lung cancer or environmental groups try to cast doubt on the benefits of GMO foods.

    But in the case of Yucca Mountain, the reverse happened: Government officials "scientized" politics. They made decisions that were largely political but cloaked them in the garb of science.

    In 2002, the Energy Secretary concluded an exhaustive analysis regarding nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain - "the most studied real estate on the planet," Sen. James Inhofe called it.   Yet in 2009 Pres. Barack Obama killed the project and his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said "I think the President has come down on whether or not [Yucca Mountain] makes sense based on the science", exactly the opposite of what the science actually said.  How did that come to pass?

    As Dawn Stover in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists writes:

    First, Congress used politics to get the scientific answer it wanted. Two decades later, Obama leaned on science for the political result he wanted. When the music stopped, taxpayers and nuclear power plant operators found themselves right back where they started: with no waste-disposal solution in sight. 
    The "scientization" of Yucca Mountain by Dawn Stover, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists


    Stover’s article is badly researched, supported, and argued. I wrote a detailed rebuttal to the editor of the Bulletin, but of course it probably won’t even be read, let alone addressed publicly by the Bulletin.

    The most one can say on this subject is what former Yucca Mountain Project Director Ward Sproat once said: That Yucca Mountain was a scientifically informed political decision. To go as far as Stover does, however intellectually appealing her reversal of terms must have seemed to her, is simply absurd.

    Anyone who has looked into the history of the Yucca Mountain siting process, as opposed to relying on diluted, brutally summarized third-hand information as Stover does, will find only that the political dimension of the Project involved some pretty predictable and common exercises of power on the part of two Congressmen whose states had been nominated as potential host sites.

    No matter how much writers like Stover say it, and bloggers such as yourself uncritically toss it into the echo chamber, the historical record (e.g., Stuckless and Levich’s USGS memoir, the DOE Multi-Attribute Analysis) demonstrates that Yucca Mountain was considered “workable” and in fact preferable to other sites long before even the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed in 1982. To complain about some unproven political cabal operating around 1987, and to then leap to the conclusion that politics dictated science, is in and of itself a most admirable specimen of unscientific thinking. Stover’s thesis actually demonstrates the same pathology she would impute to her object of study.

    So you are contending the science was settled and political efforts derailed that - so the usual politicization of science rather than Stover's 'scientization' of politics?  If so, I can agree with that, I said the same things numerous times.  This piece was more balanced and claimed both groups were rigging the system so I found it interesting, thus the link to it.
    Stover is on the mark. The "scientification" of Yucca Mountain has produced a language all its own wherein possibilities, probabilities, guesswork are disguised in a language of "sound science," a phrase bounced around the Yucca Mountain debates with perpetual energy. It not the same as politicizing science-- using scientific data to achieve political ends. It is rather a case where many of a pro-Yucca persuasion in the scientific community have "spun" the politics with claims of sound science and deal-clinching evidence. As Stover wisely concludes, there is still considerable doubt about the feasibility of safely storing HLW in Yucca Mountain.