And you thought the nuclear power in Maine ended when Maine Yankee closed in 1997.
On Tuesday, the Legislature passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Deb Simpson, D-Auburn, that calls for ceasing payments into a federal fund for spent nuclear waste disposal, unless Congress and the Obama administration accelerate fading-into-legend plans for a facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
The administration has cooled on the Yucca Mountain plans, which is impressive, because progress toward the disposal site was going at a glacial pace, as it were. There are 540 metric tons of nuclear waste stored at the former Maine Yankee site in Wiscasset waiting for a place to go.
Since 1982, electricity ratepayers across the United States have paid one-tenth of a cent, per kilowatt-hour used, on their monthly bills to construct a federal nuclear waste depository. Maine alone has contributed $65.5 million to the fund, of the $185.5 million it was assessed for Maine Yankee.
In total, according to The New York Times, this federal fund has collected $30 billion, under the promise of building the depository by 2020. Maine is only a small contributor, per capita, but its insurrectionist rumblings are forcing other so-called nuclear states to sit up and take notice.
Dirigo, indeed.
It strikes us that pushing the federal government to move on nuclear waste storage is smart on several fronts: national security, environmental protection, political needs and consumer fairness. The first one, security, is easy. To ensure radioactive material isn’t misused, it should all be collected and guarded.
There are 55,000 tons of high-grade nuclear waste in 120 sitesin 39 states, the Times reported. A single federal facility would go far toward guaranteeing none slips through the cracks. This is as important for national security as it is for environmental protection.
Politically, the federal government cannot stick the states with what is essentially an unfunded mandate for storing and monitoring nuclear waste, after vowing and collecting funds for more than 25 years to do something about it. From a consumer perspective, this is wasted money, so far.
And there is absolutely no sense for Maine ratepayers, or U.S. ratepayers for that matter, to continue filling this federal coffer if there is no political will to use it for its intended purpose.
This was the gist of Simpson’s resolution; we support and applaud it. Yes there are more pressing concerns facing our federal government -– the economy foremost among them -– but simply ignoring problems like spent nuclear fuel won’t make it go away. Exploiting half-lives is not energy policy.
Something must be done. It’s great to see Maine on the vanguard of forcing action.
Seems like nuclear power is still around, after all.
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