The U.S. Dept. of Energy is withdrawing its Nuclear Regulatory Commission application for a waste-storage facility in southern Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. The move comes after DOE spent decades and $38 billion researching and building at the site.
Deep inside the mountain, DOE would have stored up to 77,000 tons of radioactive waste from 80 sites in 35 states. Spent fuel and defense waste was to go in special containers within a network of tunnels. Government estimates put the construction cost at about $100 billion.
The withdrawal coincides with President Obama’s campaign pledge to find alternate storage. Obama’s 2011 budget proposal eliminates Yucca funding, yet it seeks to triple the size of the DOE’s loan guarantee program to $54 billion, possibly leading to seven to 10 new reactors. Temporary storage costs could run between $10 billion and $26 billion if a permanent repository isn’t opened within the next century, reports the Government Accounting Office. By 2055, total waste is expected to increase to 153,000 tons.
The government is now looking at how to handle an application withdrawal, says NRC spokesman Scott Burnell. “It’s an unusual situation given the amount of information generated in support of [Yucca]. We haven’t reached any conclusions on how to deal with it,” he adds.
Bechtel SAIC Corp. LLC ended its eight-year run as project manager on March 31, losing to a joint-venture of URS Corp., Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Inc. and France-based Areva SA. In October, DOE awarded the new team a five-year, $2.5-billion performance-based, cost-plus contract.