Yucca official: Project may not be big enough

A representative of the United States Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain project admitted that by the time the proposed nuclear waste repository is built, it may not be large enough.

Frank Moussa, supervisor of the DOE's intergovernmental operations department, said the department was working on a final supplemental environmental impact statement and is looking for a secondary repository.

In a presentation updating the progress of the DOE's transportation plans, Moussa said that 63,000 metric tons of high-grade nuclear waste was ready to go into the proposed repository, which was designed to hold 70,000 metric tons.

"We will meet that amount before it is built," he said. "We took a $108 million budget cut and that had a tremendous impact."

Moussa said the DOE will have to look to expand Yucca Mountain or find a second repository location.

He said the budget cuts have limited some of the activities by the project, which has laid off about 500 workers, but by law the DOE still had to continue the work.

Moussa also said that the DOE has not precluded the use of trucks to carry waste, and said interstates 80, 70 and 40 were under consideration, though rail is the "preferred" method to transport the waste.

"We want to start this dialogue ASAP," he said, adding he didn't want to mention truck transport to the commissioners just before it began.

He said a national transportation plan was being prepared and he hoped it would be released in June. He added the plan would not have dates because budget cuts may make dates difficult to meet.

"We are continuing dialogue on routing, but have no specific plan," he said, adding that the department needed to work on the perception of risk for transporting nuclear waste by rail.

Twelve locations in the country will send nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, he said.

Moussa said the department hoped to get authorization to begin construction on the site in 2011, but expects that to be pushed back to March 2013.

He also said they were hoping to be able to receive waste by 2017, but that also isn't a firm date because of funding issues.

Claire Sinclair, representing the DOE's office of civilian radioactive waste management program, told the commissioners that the Mina Corridor was no longer being considered because of objections by the Paiutes in Mineral County, who have decided not to let the waste pass through their land.

"The preferred route is the Caliente Corridor," she said.

Sinclair also said that Nye County officials are in support of the program as long as the science is corroborated.

"Of all the Nevada counties, Nye is the best county to cooperate because it is the host county," she said.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 881-7351.


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