Nevada wants feds to declare mothballed nuclear dump plan dead
By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — After a decade in limbo, Nevada is pressuring U.S. nuclear regulators to finally kill a shelved proposal to bury the nation’s most radioactive waste beneath a windswept volcanic ridge to the north from Vegas.
“Now is the time to pull this long dormant, unproven federal project out of its misery,” the state said in a document submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday about the Yucca Mountain project. “Fundamental fairness demands that this procedure be completed if possible.”
The NRC, which regulates and licenses US nuclear power plants and the handling of radioactive materials, had no immediate comment on the state’s request. Commission spokesman David McIntyre said the committee would look into it.
The document urges the federal agency to reopen its review and end a 40-year effort by the Department of Energy to prove that the Yucca Mountain site would be a safe place to store highly radioactive waste shipped from power plants. Across the country.
He mocks the repository as “an unfunded zombie-like federal scheme that has stalked the halls of Congress begging for appropriations support for more than a decade without success.”
An estimated $15 billion has been spent drilling a 5-mile U-shaped test tunnel and conducting studies to find out if 77,000 tons (70,000 metric tons) of some of the deadliest materials known to man could remain buried safely for thousands of years at the site.
Some estimates put the final cost of building the repository at $100 billion, including drilling a honeycomb of underground rail tunnels and designing a way to enclose the waste and prevent leaks. in underground water sources.
The United States does not have a long-term plan to manage or dispose of hazardous nuclear waste produced and stored in reactors nationwide, but Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has spoken in recent months about the need to find one.
Nevada’s proposal came the same day the department announced it would spend $16 million to promote what it called “consent-based” site selection and management of spent nuclear fuel.
The government promised US nuclear power producers in 1982 that it would find a place to store radioactive spent fuel. Congress in 1987 narrowed the choice to Yucca Mountain, a secure corner of a sprawling federal reservation where nuclear weapons were detonating about 100 miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas.
But plans for the repository were shelved after 2010, when then-US Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration halted funding.
Some elected officials in rural Nevada are supportive of the proposal and the jobs it could bring. But most of the congressional delegation and state lawmakers strenuously opposed what U.S. Democratic Rep. Dina Titus on Tuesday called “a dangerous plan to force a nuclear waste dump in Nevada.”
“Nevada does not use nuclear energy; we do not produce nuclear waste; and we shouldn’t have to store it,” Titus said in a statement.
Governor Steve Sisolak, US Sens, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, State Attorney General Aaron Ford and US Representatives Steven Horsford and Susie Lee – all Democrats – also endorsed the call to action. State. The state has launched a website focusing on what it calls the plan’s dangers and flaws.
The licensing process itself — a review of scientific and technical data amid challenges from the state and other naysayers — is expected to cost $330 million and take five years.
The state said Tuesday it wanted a “summary disposition” of the NRC, not a full list of hearings. The challenges of a series of Department of Energy findings on site geology and the transport of nuclear materials would go unaddressed.
Nuclear power provides about 20% of electricity in the United States, accounting for about half of the country’s carbon-free energy. Most of the nation’s 93 operating reactors are east of the Mississippi River.
Nevada’s request to the NRC also noted that the effects of human-induced climate change had not been studied before the shutdown of the Yucca Mountain project.
A recent Associated Press look at energy policies nationwide revealed momentum for the first expansion of nuclear reactor construction in more than three decades. A survey found that about two-thirds of states now say nuclear will in some way help replace fossil fuels.
A $1 trillion infrastructure package that President Joe Biden signed into law last November will allocate about $2.5 billion to advanced reactor demonstration projects.
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