Energy Secretary Steven Chu pledged Tuesday to proceed with the termination of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository despite mounting resistance in Congress.
"We believe we do have the legal authority to do this," Chu said following his keynote address at a conference held by the Energy Information Administration and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "There are members of Congress who don't, so we've agreed to have our lawyers get together with their lawyers to hash that out."
Earlier this year, Chu appointed a commission to explore alternatives to the Yucca Mountain facility. He has insisted that the commission's mandate is to reconsider all aspects of the "back-end fuel question," not just relocate the waste repository elsewhere. But some lawmakers are wary of the decision because states might not approve new power plants without a permanent solution to waste storage.
Chu reiterated Tuesday morning that his plans to abort the Yucca Mountain facility will not be derailed by congressional resistance.
"We are taking steps to end [Yucca Mountain] because... we see no point in it. It's spending a lot of money," he said. "It's very important that we not linger around this decision. It's been made, and we want to go forward and move into the future."
When asked about a price on carbon, Chu conceded that the Obama administration must take the state of the economy into account as they chart a way forward on energy. "I think one has to be very, very careful about putting this price on while we're still in a deep recession," he said.
But the instability of the economy should not be exaggerated, he added. "Look, the signs are very good, the GDP in the last two quarters has increased for the first time, the unemployment figures have stabilized and are beginning to come back," Chu said. "We have to make sure that the unemployment figures go down over the next coming quarters. That's the most important thing and what the administration's focused on."