Congress plans to cut Yucca funding request

LAS VEGAS - The nation's nuclear waste chief says Congress intends to slash millions of dollars from the Clinton administration's request for funding the Yucca Mountain project.

That means Nevada and 10 affected county governments in the state and California possibly won't receive as much money to oversee the project. It also means licensing of the proposed nuclear waste repository could be delayed a year off the current schedule, said Ivan Itkin, director of the Energy Department's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.

Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the only site being studied to entomb the nation's high-level radioactive waste - 77,000 tons of mostly spent fuel pellets from commercial power reactors.

The administration's request for about $438 million to fund the project in 2001 is $25 million more than what the House has approved and $87 million more than what the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved, Itkin said.

''The Senate mark will most assuredly delay a license application to the NRC,'' Itkin said, referring to the agency's plan to submit a license request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2002.

If only $351 million is appropriated for the project, as the Senate committee has approved for next year, then the license application won't be ready until 2003, he said.

''Funding shortfalls and resulting delays are not without consequences to all parties,'' Itkin said. ''At lower requested funding we will have to consider reduced funding for the affected units of government.''

He said he was uncertain how much of the $10.4 million the agency has proposed for Nevada and local governments officials might consider reducing.

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