Emissions, Nuclear, Waste Management & Decommissioning

Energy secretary recommends Yucca Mountain to president for nuclear waste storage

By Sylvie Dale
Online Editor

Jan. 10, 2002 — Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has made his recommendation to President Bush that the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada should be used as a permanent storage site for the country’s nuclear waste, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Shortly after his visit to the mountain site on Monday where he viewed some geological test results and met with Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, Abraham told the president the site would be “scientifically sound and suitable” for storing to store 77,000 tons of highly radioactive used reactor fuel now in storage across the country, AP said. Abraham made the recommendation despite a lawsuit the State of Nevada filed on Dec. 17 to delay his recommendation, one of several lawsuits the state has filed.

President Bush still must make the final decision on whether the U.S. should proceed with its plans to use Yucca Mountain. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, if the President then recommends the site to Congress and the site is chosen, Abraham will file an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for construction at the site within three months.
Guinn said before Abraham’s recommendation that even if the battle to delay Abraham’s recommendation is lost, his group will keep fighting the project.
“The federal government and the nuclear industry have been put on notice that Nevada will fight this project every step of the way, and we will prevail,” he said in a statement.
The Nevada governor can fight the project with a veto, and then only Congress can override the veto.
“In light of the fact the General Accounting Office has stated that the Yucca Mountain Project should be indefinitely postponed based on the views expressed by Bechtel SAIC, a private contactor for the Department of Energy, it is irresponsible and irrational for the Yucca Mountain project to move forward at this time,” Guinn said. “There are also issues surrounding the security and public health risks associated with the transporting of deadly nuclear waste across the United States that must first be addressed.”
According to the GAO study, Bechtel SAIC is credited with stating that DOE cannot possibly meet its aggressive schedule for Yucca Mountain given the myriad of outstanding scientific and engineering issues yet to be resolved.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act was amended in 1987 to direct DOE to study only Yucca Mountain, Nevada, to determine its suitability as a repository site for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.
Nuclear waste now is stored in casks at 103 commercial reactors and other industrial and military sites around the country.
Congress has asked for Abraham’s recommendation by Feb. 28.
Links
More information about the Yucca Mountain Project, including the Final EPA Radiation Protection Standards for Yucca Mountain (40 CFR 197) is on the DOE web site at: http://www.ymp.gov.
For more information about the Nevada Protection Fund, visit the web site at http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/.