WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal auditors said Wednesday it would be cheaper to store nuclear waste in concrete casks at the nation's nuclear plants than at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, at least in the short-term.
But in the long run, relying on the casks could turn out to be more expensive.
The Government Accountability Office estimates the cost of maintaining radioactive waste at the nation's nuclear plants for 100 years at between $13 billion and $34 billion.
Meanwhile, the projected costs of storing a similar amount of nuclear waste at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear dump northwest of Las Vegas would range from $41 billion to $67 billion.
Nevada lawmakers said the analysis reinforces their contention that taxpayers are better off finding an alternative to the Yucca Mountain repository. Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign requested the report, along with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
"This report confirms what most Nevadans already know: that the president made the right decision to stop the Yucca Mountain Project and focus on finding alternatives to dealing with nuclear waste," Reid said.
The national inventory of nuclear waste stands at 70,000 metric tons - enough to fill a football field more than 15 feet deep. The material is accumulating at 80 sites. Congress approved legislation in 2002 that approved Yucca Mountain site as the nation's geologic repository, but momentum for the project has stalled. The Obama administration has said it plans to terminate the project and form a panel of experts to review alternatives.
The GAO report said that most of the costs for Yucca Mountain would occur upfront. Meanwhile, the costs associated with onsite storage would be back-loaded because the waste would have to be repackaged every 100 years for safety or because the U.S. may end up building a permanent repository after all. The delay could add to the cost of building a repository beyond what's estimated for Yucca Mountain.