But in early 2010, DOE’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year had no funds for Yucca Mountain, a clear sign from the Obama administration that it planned to end the project.
In early October 2010, then-NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko directed staffers to end work on one volume of the multi-volume Yucca Mountain report and to proceed to close the review, according to a June 2011 report from NRC’s inspector general.
Looking ahead, Keith Chu, a spokesman for Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said it is clear the $11.1 million NRC has in appropriations for the Yucca Mountain review “will not be sufficient to finish processing that application, which means the ball is still in Congress’s court when it comes to deciding the direction of U.S. nuclear waste policy.”
Chu added, “This ruling only increases the urgency to break the gridlock over disposing of radioactive nuclear waste.” He said Wyden will work to push a bipartisan bill dealing with waste storage.
The amount of nuclear fuel stored around the country continues to grow. According to NEI, more than 69,000 metric tons of spent fuel stored at sites around the country, as of the end of 2012.
That bill, which Wyden introduced in June with support from senators from both parties, would implement recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future’s January 2012 report. Among other things, the bill calls for a new federal agency, independent of DOE, to oversee nuclear-waste issues. It also calls for building a pilot storage facility for spent fuel from decommissioned nuclear powerplants.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the Environment and Public Works Committee’s top GOP member, praised the court decision, saying, “Even after years of dragging their feet in a pathetic attempt to kill the Yucca Mountain project, former NRC leadership and the administration are forced to follow the correct licensing process.”
A 2008 DOE report said the project had incurred costs of more than $13.5 billion from 1983-2006 and estimated its total life-cycle costs, including design, construction, operation and waste transportation, at $96.2 billion.
Story corrected Aug. 15 to reflect that Sen. Wyden is the nuclear-waste bill's sponsor.