Nuclear energy provides the United States with 20 percent of its electricity, but none to Utah. If the state legislature gets their wish, it could stay that way for the Beehive State:

Lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill in the Utah House that would effectively stop any nuclear power plant from setting up in the state.

The measure would prevent nuclear power plants from operating in Utah unless there is a federally licensed facility with adequate capacity available to dispose of any high-level radioactive waste.

The proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada has a capacity limit that is already too low to handle the material expected to be generated by the country’s 104 commercial reactors before they are shut down.

Unless Congress removes the 77,000-ton limit on Yucca Mountain, it would have to approve a search for a second repository to handle future waste.”

Currently, there is a proposal to build two 1,500-megawatt reactors in Green River that would provide the state clean and secure energy while adding diversity to the state’s energy portfolio. The fact that Yucca Mountain is not open should not bar any state from building new nuclear plants – we have 104 reactors operating in the U.S. that are safely storing their used nuclear fuel on site.

But there is a larger issue at hand here. We do have a problem managing nuclear waste in this country.

The issues surrounding opening Yucca Mountain are purely politically and not one bit technical. Yucca Mountain has been a political boondoggle for decades. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 set January 31, 1998, as the deadline for the federal government to begin receiving used fuel. Its inability to fulfill this legal obligation has resulted in millions of dollars in taxpayer liability. This will grow into the billions before long. Furthermore, Congress set Yucca Mountain’s statutory limit when, in fact, it could hold 120,000 tons of used nuclear fuel or more. Yet, even with a 120,000 ton limit, if nuclear power production increased by 1.8 percent annually after 2010, Yucca would be full by 2030.

The best way to fix the problem of nuclear waste is to get it out of the government’s hands. A free-market approach to managing nuclear waste, with proper government oversight, is the way to ensure that the commercial nuclear industry will be sustainable in the long run.

Heritage nuclear expert Jack Spencer details the federal government’s mismanagement of waste and offers market solutions here. It won’t be easy. But if we’re serious about meeting energy demands and environmental goals, it is without a doubt necessary.