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Yucca Mountain remains in debate over nuclear waste storage

The Government Accountability Office report said most experts agree that building Yucca Mountain is neither socially nor politically viable

Yucca Mountain remains in debate over nuclear waste storage
, By GARY MARTIN – Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jan 1, 2022  

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Mounting opposition to proposed nuclear waste storage sites in Texas and New Mexico has kept Yucca Mountain in Nevada in the national debate over what to do with the growing stockpile of radioactive material scattered around the country.

The Biden administration is opposed to Yucca Mountain and announced plans this month to send waste to places where state, local and tribal governments agree to accept it. That stance is shared by Nevada elected officials, tribal leaders and business and environmental groups.

But until the 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Act is changed by Congress, the proposed radioactive waste repository 90 miles north of Las Vegas remains the designated permanent storage site for spent fuel rods from commercial nuclear plants.

”That’s what worries me. Until you get a policy in place, it will always be something you have to watch,” U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

An expert on atomic testing and American politics, Titus as a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas wrote a 1986 book on Nevada’s nuclear past.

As an elected state and congressional lawmaker, she has opposed a permanent storage facility at Yucca Mountain.

Titus introduced legislation in past sessions of Congress that adopts recommendations by a 2012 Blue Ribbon Commission under the Obama administration to send the waste to states that want it.

Similar legislation has been filed in the Senate by Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, a former state attorney general who also has fought federal efforts to build a repository at Yucca Mountain.

The legislation has failed to pass, as lawmakers from both parties who represent states with nuclear power plants seek a quick solution to waste disposal.

“I’ve always fought misguided efforts to deposit nuclear waste in Nevada, and I’ll keep working with the Nevada delegation to pass my consent-based siting bill that would ensure these dangerous materials are never dumped on our state,” Cortez Masto said.


The Biden administration has since proposed to fund interim storage in light of the 30-year stalemate over Yucca Mountain, due to growing need to address stockpiles of radioactive waste at decommissioned and operating plants across the country.

As of 2019, about 86,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel was being stored at 119 sites, according to the Department of Energy.

There are about 95 power plants operating in 29 states, currently, generating 2,900 metric tons a year. And, there are 38 reactors in 30 states in various stages of decommissioning. The waste is stored in casks, a former Energy Department adviser, Robert Alvarez, told an Environmental and Energy Study Institute briefing last year.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, issued a report in September recommending storing the waste in places where local and state officials would agree to accept it. The reporting cited the dangerous characteristics of nuclear waste and need for safe disposal.

Energy Secretary Jen Granholm announced this month that the department was seeking recommendations from states, cities, industry officials and others on locations where officials were willing to accept spent fuel and materials.

The plan announced by Granholm is expected to take up to two years to research and determine costs.

The plan announced by the Department of Energy essentially restarts a process that began under the Obama administration with a recommendation from a Blue Ribbon Commission that suggested “consent-based siting” with local input as the most effective way to develop storage sites.

That did not occur in Nevada.


Yucca Mountain was designated by Congress as the sole site for permanent storage in 1987 after other sites in Kansas, Tennessee and Utah were rejected. Since that time, more than $15 billion has been spent on research and exploration at Yucca Mountain.

Local opposition in Nevada, led by Democratic former Sen. Harry Reid and other state elected officials blocked development of the project, until President George W. Bush directed the Department of Energy to seek a construction license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The licensing process, however, was halted by President Barack Obama and by Reid, who as Senate majority leader pulled funding for the application. A federal court allowed funds already earmarked for licensing to continue to be spent.

President Donald Trump’s election brought a new push for licensing by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who like Bush was a former Texas governor. Despite political opposition from former Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and the entire state congressional delegation, the Trump administration pushed to develop Yucca Mountain.

Perry repeatedly told Congress that he was following the 1987 law as he moved forward on licensing for nuclear storage at the designated Yucca Mountain site.

But Trump later flip-flopped on Yucca Mountain as he sought re-election with Nevada a part of his campaign strategy.

After the election, the Biden administration budgeted funding for commercial operators to take control of some waste at interim sites.



The Government Accountability Office report said most experts agree that building Yucca Mountain is neither socially nor politically viable……………

January 3, 2022 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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