The question of what to do with the nation’s nuclear waste popped up at the October 18, 2011 CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“My question for you is, do you support opening the national nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain?” asked a member of the audience.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich provided a vague, non-answer, despite the best efforts of moderator Anderson Cooper:
Gingrich: Look, we -- we worked on this when I was speaker. I think that it has to be looked at scientifically. But I think at some point we have to find a safe method of taking care of nuclear waste. And today, because this has been caught up in a political fight, we have small units of nuclear waste all over this country in a way that is vastly more dangerous to the United States than finding a method of keeping it in a very, very deep place that would be able to sustain 10,000 or 20,000 and 30,000 years of geological safety.
Cooper: Is Yucca Mountain that place?
Gingrich: I'm not a scientist. I mean, Yucca Mountain certainly was picked by the scientific community as one of the safest places in the United States. It has always had very deep opposition here in Nevada. And, frankly...
Cooper: You were for opening it in Congress, right?
Cooper: When you were in the Congress, you were...
Gingrich: When I was in Congress, frankly, I worked with the Nevada delegation to make sure that there was time for scientific studies. But we have to find some method of finding a very geologically stable place, and most geologists believe that, in fact, Yucca Mountain is that.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul delivered a straightforward response, opposing the idea of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain:
Paul: Yes. Yes, I've -- I've opposed this. We've had votes in the Congress. There was a time when I voted with two other individuals, the two congressmen from Nevada. And I approach it from a state's rights position. What right does 49 states have to punish one state and say, "We're going to put our garbage in your state"? I think that's wrong.
But I think it's very serious. I think it's very serious. But quite frankly, the government shouldn't be in the business of subsidizing any form of energy. And nuclear energy, I think, is a good source of energy, but they still get subsidies. Then they assume this responsibility. Then we as politicians and the bureaucrats get involved in this. And then we get involved with which state's going to get stuck with the garbage.
So I would say, the more the free market handles this and the more you deal with property rights and no subsidies to any form of energy, the easier this problem would be solved.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney concurred with Ron Paul:
Romney: Congressman Paul was right on that.
I don't always agree with him, but I do on that. The -- the idea that 49 states can tell Nevada, "We want to give you our nuclear waste," doesn't make a lot of sense. I think the people of Nevada ought to have the final say as to whether they want that, and my guess is that for them to say yes to something like that, someone's going to have to offer them a pretty good deal, as opposed to having the federal government jam it down their throat.
And by the way, if -- if Nevada says, "Look, we don't want it," then let other states make bids and say, hey, look, we'll take it. Here's a geological site that we've evaluated. Here's the compensation we want for taking it. We want you electric companies around the country that are using nuclear fuel to compensate us a certain amount per kilowatt hour, a certain amount per ton of this stuff that comes.
Let -- let the free market work. And on that basis, the places that are geologically safe, according to science, and where the people say the deal's a good one will decide where we put this stuff. That's the right course for America.
Rick Perry also opposed the idea of storing the nation's nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain:
Perry: You know, from time to time, Mitt and I don't agree. But on this one, he's hit it, the nail, right on the head. And I'll just add that when you think about France, who gets over 70 percent of their energy from nuclear power, the idea that they deal with this issue, that their glassification, and that the innovation -- and, Congressman Paul, you're correct when it comes to allowing the states to compete with each other. That is the answer to this.
We need to have a -- a -- a discussion in -- in this country about our 10th Amendment and the appropriateness of it, as it's been eroded by Washington, D.C., for all these many years, whether it's health care, whether it's education, or whether it's dealing with energy. We don't need to be subsidizing energy in any form or fashion, allow the states to make the decision. And some state out there will see the economic issue, and they will have it in their state.
|Federal government photo of Yucca Mountain|