NRC Closes Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Dump
Due to budgetary restrictions, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has agreed to pursue a closure of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump site just 90 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Though the commission has been split 2-2 on whether to uphold or reject the decision by an independent nuclear licensing board to close the facility, the NRC has issued an order implicitly stating that the Yucca Mountain site should be closed by the end of the month due to budgetary limitations.
The U.S. Department of Energy has not requested any further funding for the Yucca Mountain site and current funds are due to expire at the end of the month.
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President Barack Obama promised in his 2008 campaign to close the Yucca Mountain site, and appointed Gregory Jaczko, former aid to Nevada senator and Senate majority leader Harry Reid, as NRC chairman. Reid has been vocal about his opposition to the nuclear waste dump and congressional Republicans for the dump cry foul play in designating Reid’s former aid as head of the NRC.
However, the NRC is split down the middle on the decision to close the dump, with supporters of the facility arguing that there is not significant enough scientific evidence to warrant the dump’s closure. But when it comes down to it, without operating funds coming from the Department of Energy nor the NRC, the site simply cannot continue. The only problem presented now is where exactly to store radioactive nuclear waste.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly