An unholy alliance between Harry Reid and Barack Obama continues to paralyze efforts to safely bury America’s radioactive wastes. Their extra-legal attacks on the Nuclear Waste Policy Act aren’t just dangerous, they also undermine the Constitution.
So says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. On Tuesday, the court ruled that the Obama administration has been invading legislative turf by refusing to consider the licensing of a proposed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
This is the third time in two years a federal appellate court has rebuked the administration for trying to kill the repository on nonscientific grounds. The NWPA requires demonstrable technical justifications for abandoning Yucca Mountain; Obama’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn’t even pretend to have any.
That’s because Obama’s sabotage of the nation’s nuclear waste program is all about politics, not science.
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Yucca Mountain remains the safest, driest and most stable place ever studied for the burial of intensely radioactive wastes that have accumulated at 104 nuclear power plants and at military sites in Washington and South Carolina.
An underground repository at Yucca Mountain wouldn’t guarantee the containment of every atom until the Earth ceases to exist, but it would be a damn sight safer than storing spent nuclear fuel in vulnerable concrete pools at reactors close to American waterways and cities.
Yet the licensing of the repository is being blocked – after a federal investment of 23 years and $10 billion – for one reason only: The Senate majority leader wants it dead, and Obama cannot afford to cross him.
If they prevail, Hanford will remain an unplanned, accidental repository of spent fuel rods from Washington’s only nuclear power plant and millions of gallons of radioactive byproducts from nuclear weapons production.
But Tuesday’s decision wasn’t about the folly of not burying radioactive wastes. It was about whether a president can defy laws he swore to uphold simply because they are politically inconvenient.
The opinion noted that the president can refuse to execute congressional policies he considers unconstitutional, and that he can decline to prosecute individuals in specific cases. Defiance of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act falls into neither category. Prosecution isn’t an issue, and Obama isn’t claiming that buying nuclear waste violates the Constitution.
What does violate the Constitution is the president’s arrogation of legislative powers. He’s effectively asserting the right to repeal an act of Congress by executive fiat.
The federal judiciary begs to differ. Yucca Mountain is alive, the court said Tuesday, until Congress says it is dead. This ruling should keep the Nevada option open until Reid and Obama are no longer in a position to keep nuclear waste scattered dangerously around the country.