Nuclear, Waste Management & Decommissioning

Yucca deadline missed

28 June 2004 – The Department of Energy missed a self-imposed deadline Wednesday that could cause delays for the Yucca Mountain Project.

The department had set June 23 as its target to finish certifying 1 million or more documents for posting to a special government Web site, an early milestone toward licensing the Nevada nuclear waste repository.

But Allen Benson, an Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management spokesman, said Wednesday that DOE was not ready to declare legally that its task was complete.

Benson said the hold-up would be “days at this point, but I don’t want to speculate. It’s got to be done right, and so we’re working on it.” He declined to give details explaining the delay.

Federal rules require DOE to certify its contributions to the “licensing support network” six months before it files an application to build a repository. Therefore, delays past June 23 probably will mean delays beyond the Dec. 23 target that DOE officials have set to file a Yucca Mountain license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, officials said.

Dan Graser, the NRC administrator of the licensing database, said DOE officials told him they would be ready to certify their contributions on Friday or Monday.

“We can turn on the DOE collection when it is time to do it,” Graser said.

A short delay in license filing would have little practical effect in December, except to complicate Christmas vacations for workers who will be putting finishing touches on the paperwork, according to Nevada officials who scrutinize the Yucca program.

But DOE’s failure to meet its goal for the Internet network suggests that managers are struggling to get the job done, said Bob Loux, executive director of the state’s Agency for Nuclear Projects.

Benson said he could not confirm that a December license application would be delayed, but Loux said the rules are clear. “There’s no question that every day they delay means a day beyond Dec. 23 that they can’t file,” Loux said.