With the move to reimpose a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, to impose a cap-and-trade system or a straightforward carbon tax, and to block the establishment of a permanent storage site for nuclear waste, the Obama administration is setting the U.S. on a course to much higher energy costs. But as it gets set to force electric ratepayers to pay more, it has already quietly confiscated billions from them. That's because in the last decade, the Department of Energy has received about $30 billion from electric utilities to pay for the establishment of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository - whose construction Obama has now canceled.
Senators McCain and Graham have introduced legislation to require the federal government to refund the money. But so far at least, the DoE is balking, claiming that they might still use the money for some other waste storage system:
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, backed by 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, introduced legislation Thursday to provide "rebates" from a $30 billion fund to build the stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in Nevada...
Graham criticized President Barack Obama for his decision to mothball the Yucca project, which the federal government has been developing for two decades over intense opposition from Nevada politicians, environmentalists and other groups.
"No one should be required to pay for an empty hole in the Nevada desert," Graham said. "The decision by the Obama administration to close Yucca Mountain was ill advised and leaves our nation without a disposal plan for spent nuclear fuel or Cold War waste..."
"Secretary (Steven) Chu has made it clear that nuclear energy needs to be part of our energy mix," Dan Leistikow, a U.S. Energy Department spokesman, said in response to Graham's measure. "He will be appointing a blue-ribbon panel of scientists and other experts to develop a thoughtful, responsible and comprehensive solution to our waste storage needs."
Cancelling Yucca Mountain was a political favor to Harry Reid, not a sound policy decision. America needs to look at ways to increase its power supply, and nuclear power makes a lot of sense. To do that, a centralize waste repository is needed.
If Obama insists on policies to keep the US dependent on carbon-emitting fossil fuels however, he can't also confiscate $30 billion more of our money to use for whatever he and Congress may decide. That money should be returned promptly. If Secretary Chu proposes another nuclear waste storage system, he can try selling it to the American people whenever he's ready.