Energy chief: Yucca not moving forward
LAS VEGAS ” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the Obama administration remains opposed to the planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, but stopped short of committing to kill the license application for the site.
“The position is Yucca Mountain is not going forward, that’s the president’s position,” Chu told the Las Vegas Sun on Thursday. “But it’s a very complicated issue because we still have to do things that allow that we can use nuclear as part of our energy mix.”
The department submitted an application for a permit to build and operate Yucca Mountain to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier last year. The commission has four years to act on the proposal.
Opponents of the repository 90 miles outside Las Vegas are pushing officials to pull the application. They fear that if the application is approved, a future presidential administration could open the site without undergoing the lengthy application process.
President Barack Obama promised to pull the application while campaigning last year, but withdrawing the application may be easier said than done.
The building of a repository at Yucca Mountain in required by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. As long as the law remains in effect, the administration is open to potential legal action if it abruptly stops the process without an alternative.
Utility companies that operate nuclear power plants across the nation have sued the government for failing to open Yucca Mountain by the promised 1998 start date. The waste is piling up at their plant sites.
Energy Department spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said Thursday that “charting a path forward on alternatives to Yucca Mountain is a key priority of Secretary Chu as he begins his tenure at the Department of Energy. Under an Obama administration, no license application will result in a nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain.”
Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said the senator wants the license application pulled, “but we also realize there’s some groundwork that needs to be completed before you pull the license application.”