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Bounties to Reduce Government? August 11, 2008

Posted by federalist in Energy, Government.

The Wall Street Journal is running an Op-Ed series, inspired by the Copenhagen Consensus, asking people how they would spend $10BB to solve the world’s problems.  Today Newt Gingrich proposes allocating billions of American dollars to fund prizes for solutions to major problems.  This is a good suggestion since much smaller “bounties” like X PRIZEs have spurred extraordinary research and unconventional solutions to other challenges.

Gingrich unwittingly shows us where Americans might find a lot of spare change: One of his prizes would be $1 billion for “A method for reusing nuclear waste to make Yucca Mountain, Nevada unnecessary as a repository.”  Apparently the former Congressional leader is ignorant of the fact that Yucca Mountain is necessary only because of a Carter Administration regulation that forbids nuclear recycling! Canada, Britain, France, and Russia have recycled their nuclear fuel for years, obviating the need to store massive amounts of slowly decaying isotopes. (For example, France has used primarily nuclear power for over a generation, yet stores all its high-level nuclear “waste” in a single room at Le Havre.)

Yucca Mountain has already cost $4 billion to study and prepare; actual storage, if it ever begins, will cost many billion more. Since a stroke of the Presidential pen will solve that problem perhaps we really can fund Gingrich’s prizes. Shall we start with a prize for “A method to prevent ignorant Congressmen from wasting American money?”



1. federalist - August 25, 2008

DoE updates the cost of Yucca Mountain:

[B]uilding the planned repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada — as well as operating it and transporting spent nuclear fuel there — will cost $96.2 billion through the time it is sealed in 2133. That represents an increase of more than two-thirds from the government’s estimate in 2001 of $57.5 billion.

2. The Beauty of Bounties | Federalist - February 19, 2014

[…] Bounties for solving big or hard problems are not new. But they should be more common. […]

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