On Friday January 29, 2010, Energy Secretary Steven Chu revealed the members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. The Blue Ribbon Commission has the task of developing a new national strategy to deal with nuclear waste as an alternative to the Yucca Mountain repository. Additionally, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced that its 2011 budget will significantly increase loan guarantees for nuclear projects. The Blue Ribbon Commission will contain high-profile members of the nuclear community with knowledge in a variety of areas. These members will be led by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton. These co-chairs will be joined by the following experts:
• Pete Domenici, former Senator and recent lawmaker on nuclear matters
• Dick Meserve, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman and current president of the Carneige Institution for Science
• Ernie Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor who served President Clinton as an official at DOE
• Per Peterson, chair of the University of California at Berkeley’s nuclear engineering program
• Albert Carnesale, a nuclear engineer and nonproliferation expert who is chancellor emeritus and professor at the University of California-Los Angeles
• Alison Macfarlane, a George Mason University professor and geologist
• John Rowe, chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon Corp.
• Phil Sharp, president of Resources for the Future and former Indiana congressman
• Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute
• Chuck Hagel, former Senator
• Mark Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO’s construction and trades department
• Vicky Bailey, a former DOE official and FERC Commissioner
• Susan Eisenhower, president of the Eisenhower Group
These experts must come up with a new strategy for handling nuclear waste without examining Yucca Mountain as a waste disposal site. As such, the Blue Ribbon Commission will have to look to alternatives such as reprocessing and interim storage. Reprocessing nuclear waste does not completely solve the issue of disposal, however, as reprocessing produces a high-level waste that requires disposal. The Blue Ribbon Commission could also consider interim storage, potentially at a federal facility or community that is given financial incentives. This may safely store spent fuel for an additional 100 years while DOE has time to contemplate another nuclear waste disposal plan.
In addition to budget requests for research, DOE will triple its loan guarantee authorization for nuclear projects in 2011, from $18.5 billion dollars to $54 billion.
The 2011 Department of Energy Budget Request on Nuclear Waste, Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal and Nuclear Waste Disposal is available at: http://www.mbe.doe.gov/budget/11budget/Content/Volume%207.pdf