Last year, I spoke at length with an attorney whose career was dedicated to work defending the nuclear waste storage facility at Nevada's Yucca Mountain and its regulatory regime from a legal onslaught.
One of the lead attorneys in the matter, he discussed the issue at length - including the fact that an entire courthouse had been erected in Nevada just to handle the volume of legal controversy involved.
He said, in very grave terms, that Yucca Mountain represents the last best realistic hope for safe nuclear storage in the nation, and that those out to stop it were essentially wildly out of touch with reality - and have no other plan because Yucca Mountain would have been incredibly safe for a very, very long time, having been subject to immense public and scientific scrutiny for so long (22 years).
It's also almost completed - after expending $13.5 billion on the project - so it seems an incredible waste to simply abandon the project at this point.
I think this is politics getting in the way of sound policy - probably due in large part to the influence of Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democratic Senator from Nevada.
This is not a pragmatic decision on the part of the Obama administration. Not at all:
The federal government is obligated by law to accept the used reactor fuel from 104 commercial power reactors, but as yet it has no place to put it
There's also a separation of powers problem here:
In 1987, Congress directed that only Yucca Mountain be evaluated as a future central government repository for the waste.