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Nevada’s determined fight against plan for Yucca Mountain nuclear dump

Decades-old war over Yucca Mountain nuclear dump resumes under Trump budget plan, LA Times,  Ralph Vartabedian, 29 Mar 17 An abandoned tunnel in the desolate Nevada desert, barricaded only by a chain-link fence, is all that remains of the nation’s tortured effort to create a permanent repository for nuclear waste 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

After spending $11 billion, the Energy Department met with unrelenting opposition from Nevada and was forced to shut down the program at Yucca Mountain — the only remotely viable option for storing tons of deadly waste that currently has nowhere to go — in 2010……..

At an estimated cost of $100 billion, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump would rival the International Space Station in cost and complexity, requiring construction of roughly 300 miles of new railroad tracks to transport the waste, development of advanced robots to work underground and fabrication of special titanium shields to keep the waste intact for, it is hoped, hundreds of thousands of years.

The $120 million outlined by Trump this month in his budget blueprint would restart the ponderous licensing process that was abandoned by the Obama administration and begin plans for a temporary storage facility at an undetermined location…….

Nevada officials have put every ounce of their political muscle into stopping the dump…….The state is quickly gearing up for a new fight, readying new legal strategies and pushing a resolution through the state Legislature.

“The Trump administration’s attempt to revive Yucca Mountain is naive and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who successfully fought off the Energy Department for years when she was the state’s attorney general. “It is a nonstarter.”

Cortez Masto said the state is united against the dump across party lines, including Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, another former attorney general……..

Nevada has filed some 300 legal “contentions” against the Energy Department’s license, each of which must be examined by a special board. The state is swinging into action to file even more contentions if the license action is resumed, said Robert Halstead, chief of the state’s nuclear office.

“They think because Reid is gone, this will be a cakewalk. Wrong,” Halstead said. “I see them going through a licensing procedure that will cost $1.5 billion and take five years, with a 50% chance of success.”……

The Energy Department’s failure to keep its promise to move forward with a disposal project, even while it collected the money, has created a swamp of litigation.

Most of the nation’s commercial reactors, including the shuttered San Onofre plant in northern San Diego County, are located on rivers, lakes and oceans — a risky location for storing highly radioactive fuel rods. And much of the nation’s nuclear weapons waste, which could also end up at Yucca Mountain, is stored in leaky tanks and steel drums.

The nation’s nuclear utilities have won judgments and settlements of $6.1 billion, arguing that the government’s failure to take the waste has increased their storage and operation costs, said Jay Silberg, an attorney representing the industry. And the Energy Department has projected that it may be liable for up to $25 billion more…….


March 31, 2017 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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