The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is wasting time, House Republicans said Tuesday, as it stalls a court-mandated review process on Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a nuclear-waste storage site. Republicans, countered some Democrats, are the real time-wasters as they force administration officials to testify on a still-nascent process and ask questions that don’t yet have answers.
The back-and-forth at a contentious hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy showed that even with Syria dominating the news, Yucca hasn’t lost its place among Capitol Hill’s most polarizing topics. The Obama administration put the Yucca Mountain project on ice in 2011 but a federal Appeals Court ruled in August that it must complete the licensing process with a full review and either a denial or approval.
NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane testified that her agency would need time and more funding to complete the review process, noting the necessity of public hearings, budget analysis, and reassembling staff that had moved on after the review was suspended in 2011.
That wasn’t good enough for the Republicans on the subcommittee, who insisted that NRC’s five-volume safety-evaluation report be finished and released as soon as possible. Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill., asked Macfarlane if she could envision a scenario in which the report was not released to the public. “I can’t say one way or another,” Macfarlane responded. Shimkus shot back, his voice rising. “Are you gonna comply with the law based on your previous statements?” Macfarlane assured him she would.
Subcommittee ranking member Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., asked Macfarlane and the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy, Paul Lyons, if they would have been better prepared to testify had Republicans waited a few weeks later into the process to hold the hearing. Both said the extra time would have aided their testimony. “Be mindful of the position we have placed the witnesses in by insisting that they testify today instead of in a few weeks,” Tonko scolded Republicans. Shimkus responded that the witnesses have had 30 days since the court ruling to prepare. “They can always come back [for further testimony], and I’m sure they’d be happy to do so,” he said.
Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was so convinced the topic was a waste of time that he spent no time on it at all. He used his question period to ask about radiation leaking from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant and the danger it poses to West Coast residents. Macfarlane said the Pacific Ocean would dilute the radiation, making it a minimal threat to the Pacific Coast. Waxman and Tonko have called for hearings on Fukushima.
While Shimkus insisted that NRC has adequate funds to complete its safety-evaluation report, Waxman claimed that the $11 million NRC has allotted for that purpose was “not nearly enough to complete the review.” Macfarlane agreed, saying her agency “does not have in reserve sufficient resources to complete all of the necessary steps in this licensing process.”
In the end, there was only one thing all sides could agree on. “We have a fine mess on our hands,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."