Commentary: Where's the science in Yucca Mountain testimony?

Was it just us, or did everyone think Energy Secretary Steven Chu looked uncomfortable talking about Yucca Mountain last week?

During a congressional hearing Thursday, Sen. Patty Murray repeatedly pressed Chu to discuss the scientific basis for terminating the Nevada site as the nation's nuclear waste repository.

The Washington Democrat said she had read Chu's statements regarding the decision to withdraw Yucca Mountain's license application.

"What seems to be missing is the 'why,' " Murray said.

It's a trick question, of course. Everyone knows why the Obama administration wants to remove Yucca Mountain from consideration.

It fulfills a political promise Obama made to Nevada voters during his presidential campaign, and it helps Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's chances for re-election. Republicans have a real shot at ousting Reid this year.

No wonder Chu seemed uneasy under Murray's repeated requests for the scientific reasons for abandoning Yucca Mountain.

Responding to Murray's questions without admitting the obvious required some rhetorical tap dancing.

"Other things, other knowledge and other conditions as they evolved made it (Yucca Mountain) increasingly not look like an ideal choice," Chu replied.

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