President Obama's decision to abandon plans for a nuclear waste repository in Nevada was on shaky ground from the start.
But lately, it seems at every turn some new development further erodes the administration's case for pulling the plug on Yucca Mountain.
In rapid succession this month:
w The Energy Communities Alliance wrote Energy Secretary Steven Chu, voicing concerns that the absence of a federal repository will slow nuclear cleanup efforts at Hanford and other government sites.
w Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee heaped criticism on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for stonewalling on whether to accept the Department of Energy's request to drop Yucca Mountain.
w The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, released a report that concluded scrapping Yucca Mountain would increase waste storage costs at Hanford by as much as $918 million, and millions more at other sites.
w Finally, the GAO released a second report, which found that the decision to abandon the Nevada site was made for policy reasons, not technical or safety reasons.
None of the recent developments is particularly surprising.
With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid facing a tough re-election campaign for his Nevada seat last year, the political motivation for the administration's move could hardly have been any clearer.
With virtually every poll showing Reid in seriousdanger of losing the election, he appeared to desperately need the boost that an end to the unpopular Yucca Mountain repository could deliver.
The administration rejected GAO's findings, but Chu hasn't offered a credible alternative to the speculation.
The energy secretary's "judgment is not that Yucca Mountain is unsafe or that there are flaws in the license application, but rather that it is not a workable option and that alternatives will better serve the public interest," DOE said in a filing with the NRC.
That's flimsy justification for a such an expensive decision. In addition to any storage costs caused by the delay in opening a repository, the decision to jettison Yucca Mountain also means abandoning a fortune, even by federal standards.
The GAO estimates the government spent almost $15 billion leading up to a license application to the NRC for Yucca Mountain. DOE has spent about $9 billion collected from electric utilities -- make that ratepayers -- that's supposed to pay for a permanent storage site.
It's possible the utilities' waste fund won't have enough money left to open a repository, the GAO report said.
The agency stops short of describing the Obama administration's unilateral decision to stop the project as blatantly political move to shore up Reid's re-election bid, but we'll take the liberty of reading between the lines.
Criticism from federal lawmakers aimed at the NRC echoes other suspicions that have circulated for months.
NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko previously served on Reid's staff, which is enough to raise suspicions about that agency's delay in announcing whether DOE will be allowed to withdraw its application for Yucca Mountain.
But Jaczko's connection to Reid isn't the only thingfueling the doubts of House members. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want a better explanation for the NRC's failure to act.
Jaczko claims there has been no final vote on the issue but three other NRC commissioners testified that they have cast their final vote.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, came right out and accused Jaczko of "playing some kind of foot-dragging game" to delay the decision.
There are other reasons this business reeks, including the hasty way DOE dismantled its Yucca Mountain operation, despite pending lawsuits challenging the decision and the absence of a ruling from the NRC.
"Several DOE officials told us that they had never seen such a large program withso much pressure to close down so quickly," the GAO reported.
Of course, more than money is at stake. The disaster under way at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station illustrates the danger of indefinitely storing spent fuel rods in reactor cooling ponds.
Among GAO's conclusions was a recommendation Congress consider whether "an independent organization,outside of DOE, could bemore effective in siting and developing a permanent repository for the nation's nuclear waste."
Given the string of events this past month, that idea is sounding better all the time.