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    “Yucca Mountain Will Be There Long After Senator Reid Is Gone”
    By Hank Campbell | February 7th 2013 10:43 AM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    What happens when thousands of scientists do decades of research and taxpayers spend spend $15 billion on a scientifically validated site for nuclear waste storage but those science conclusions conflict with the anti-science beliefs of a president and his key ally in the Senate?

    The Scientization of Politics happens, that's what. Scientization of Politics is the flipside of the more commonly known Politicization of Science. Politicization of Science is obvious - as the federal government in America has taken more control of science funding they have taken more control of the nature of research and politics guides its goals - George Bush limiting federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research and Barack Obama outright refusing to fund somatic cell nuclear transfer are examples.  When science conflicts with politics, science gets mired in bureaucracy and committee meetings. Democrats in Congress railing against the CDC for not agreeing that vaccines cause autism is an example.

    The Scientization of Politics is a different animal.  It's making a political decision and wrapping it in the flag of science. In the case of Yucca Mountain, 100 miles from civilization in what can only be considered the ideal location for 65,000 metric tons of waste, the scientization of politics was to throw out decades of research and appoint a new 'blue ribbon' commission that is designed to reach the conclusion Pres. Obama and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada wanted them to reach - and they would keep on 'studying' the science issues until that happened.

    But more scientifically-minded members of Congress are not letting it go so easily. Representative John Shimkus of Illinois said yesterday, “We will not move on any nuclear-waste provision without a Yucca Mountain component.”

    Especially with the Department of Energy holding the nuclear industry hostage for almost a billion dollars per year in storage costs for a hundred sites, the cost of which is passed along to consumers.

    Reid, of course, is famous for hostage-taking of his own. He held President Bush hostage until he placed Reid's anti-science staffer on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He then got President Obama to make that anti-nuclear power zealot the head of the NRC, to disastrous effect.  When he finally left, the president appointed a new NRC head who isn't even a nuclear physicist, but whose primary credentials were writing a book against Yucca Mountain.  

    These people think having nuclear waste in over a hundred different old locations is better than having it in one state-of-the-art, thoroughly scrutinized spot. It's like they want there to be a disaster - they hate nuclear energy more than they love America.

    "Yucca Mountain will be there long after Senator Reid is gone,” Shimkus, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee panel on environment and the economy, said at a Bloomberg Government conference in Washington.

    Meanwhile, rumblings are that nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, one of President Obama's science and energy advisers, may be the next Energy Secretary, to replace Steven Chu. He was undersecretary at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration, so he helped oversee the dismantling of our nuclear energy industry, and was put on Obama's Blue Ribbon panel to find an "alternative" to the already scientifically validated Yucca Mountain, so he knows how to place politics properly before science when it counts, but at least he does not have the irrational CO2 hatred and rose-colored glasses approach to solar power that Chu has.

    Moniz isn't the perfect choice, but as I noted in Energy Secretary Steven Chu Has Resigned - Here Are 3 Things We Need In The Next One, even 1 out of 3 would be better than what exists today.

    Comments

    Contrasting George Bush limiting federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research with Obama shutting down Yucca Mountain is not equivalent. Yucca Mountain is not only scientifically justified, it is the law of the land and Obama violated NWPA to shut it down. There is no law mandating federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. In addition, if embryonic stem cell research is so promising, then why does it need federal funding? Venture capitalists should be beating down the door to invest in it if it was promising. They aren't.

    Hank
    I wanted to use two cases, one Republican and one Democrat, where a politician made a decision based on his personal beliefs that was in defiance of the science consensus. Unlike Yucca Mountain, Bush's hESC stance got a lot of attention due to the heavy political bias of science academia and the partisan nature of science media. 

    To your main point, the law was broken but Pres. Obama will be out of office by the time that ever goes through the courts, they'll just keep changing the rules on 'interim' under NWPA, and the guy who did it for him is now gone. Letting the EPA hijack the NRC and DOE was a brilliant move on the parts of anti-nuclear activists and their friends in Congress and the White House.