Cheney says nuclear waste dump can be built safely |

Cheney says nuclear waste dump can be built safely


WASHINGTON (AP) – The Bush administration’s turn to nuclear power as a long-term energy strategy will necessitate a permanent nuclear waste dump, Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday.

”Now, with the gas prices rising as dramatically as they have, nuclear power looks like a pretty good alternative from an economic standpoint, if the permitting process is manageable and if we find a way to deal with the waste question,” said Cheney, who is developing energy policy recommendations for President Bush.

In an interview on CNN, the vice president said his recommendations would include changes meant to speed federal permits to utilities seeking to build nuclear power plants. The industry has not sought a government permit to build a new plant in more than 20 years, since before the accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island spread fear about nuclear power.

Nuclear power provides 20 percent of the nation’s electric capacity today.

As to the thorny question of nuclear waste, Cheney said: ”Right now we’ve got waste piling up at reactors all over the country. Eventually, there ought to be a permanent repository. The French do this very successfully and very safely in an environmentally sound, sane manner. We need to be able to do the same thing.”

He did not say where the government might put such a site but Nevada officials fear it would almost certainly be built in their state.

In 1987, Congress passed a law designating Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as the nation’s only high-level nuclear waste repository. Such a site would receive waste from both nuclear power plants and from defense uses.

Nevadans have been bitterly fighting the proposal for 14 years.

Shedding more light on the energy policy that Bush is scheduled to unveil next week, Cheney left open the possibility that Bush will seek the so-called ”power of eminent domain” to construct new electrical transmission lines. Such authority allows the government to appropriate private property for public use. The federal government already has such authority with respect to laying gas pipelines.

”The issue is whether or not we should have the same authority on electrical transmission lines, that’s never been granted previously. That’s one of the issues we’ve looked at. We’ll have a recommendation when we release the report next week,” Cheney said.

He defended his energy-policy work against critics who say he has focused too much on increased production – boosting coal burning and drilling for oil and natural gas.

”You’ll find that most of the financial incentives that we recommend in the report go for conservation or renewables, for increased efficiencies. Now, we don’t have a lot of new financial incentives in here to go out and produce more oil and gas, for example, so, we believe in conservation, we believe in renewables, we believe in wind and solar and all of those other technologies,” Cheney said.

But, he added, renewable forms of energy provide just 2 percent of national electric generating capacity and cannot alone solve the nation’s problem of demand exceeding supply.

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