Move to bury Yucca nuclear waste repository Mar 2010
Patrick Reynolds, Freelance Reporter
- The US Department of Energy (DoE) has moved to pull its licence application to excavate a deep repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Congress however is yet to kill off the project legally and opposition to the Federal move continues from different states and industry bodies.
- Yucca was proposed to be an extensive system of caverns and tunnels but its fate has been of concern to the nuclear and tunnelling sectors since the Obama Administration took over in early 2009. Over the last year, the Government has choked off funding for the scheme which the DoE now says is an "unworkable option" as a high-level waste repository.
- At the end of January, President Obama's long-awaited Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future was finally established to look at a range of issues, including alternative storage solutions. The option to store waste deep underground at another location has not been ruled out. The plan for a Commission was announced just over a year ago.
Yucca Mountain deemed an "unworkable option"
- In February, the 2011 budget submitted to Congress revealed that no funds were being sought for the Yucca scheme, which sparked a wave of criticism from states, and concern over how research data would be safeguarded.
- At the beginning of this month the DoE took the next step to end Yucca by requesting that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepts the withdrawal of its licence application. The DoE argues that technological advances in waste disposal have superseded the plans for Yucca and wanted to avoid further expenditure, given the Commission had been established to give a fresh review.
- At an industry conference last November in London and during an open floor debate, it was suggested that a move by the DoE to withdraw its application would be a step into "unknown territory". The move may also encounter strong resistance depending on how Congress reacts, given bipartisan support for the scheme, especially in the House of Representatives, it was said. it is opposed However by some senior figures in Congress, not least of which is Senator Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. A further factor might be when such a move would happen within an election cycle, with Harry Reid himself facing strong competition for his re-election to the Senate from Nevada in November.
- The DoE submitted the licence application to NRC in mid-2008, almost four years after design work had to be re-thought under order of the US Court of Appeals. Prior to the new Administration's rejection of Yucca it had been anticipated that the licence to construct might be granted around 2012, again depending on the election cycle. Yucca was elected as the designated deep repository for high-level waste in the US by the George W. Bush Administration in 2002.
Yucca Mountain all but scrapped - TunnelTalk, Mar 2009
Waste Management at Yucca Mountain - TunnelTalk, Mar 2010
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