A new Dept. of Energy report projects that the cost of the Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear waste repository will be about $57.5 billion, up 26% from a 1998 estimate. The DOE report, released May 4, says that $7.1 billion of the $11.8-billion increase in expenses is for costs of waste packaging and fabrication of drip shields. The plan now calls for titanium drip shields and a third lid on the waste packages.

Yucca Mountain (Photo courtesy of Department of Energy)

The $57.5-billion total includes $8.2 billion spent between 1983 and 2000 and stated in 2000 dollars, plus $49.3 billion in future costs from 2001 through 2119.

The new cost estimate was one of four documents that DOE issued. The others are a supplement to the 1999 draft environmental impact statement, a science and engineering report and an assessment of whether the fee charged to nuclear utility ratepayers is enough to cover the project's cost.

Nevada's representatives in Congress continue to fight the project, located about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that "there are still many unanswered questions about the suitability of this site." He expects the cost estimates to continue to rise as design proceeds.

If the DOE Secretary recommends the site and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses it, the facility could begin receiving nuclear waste in 2010.