Nuke director: Yucca dump project in death throes
Nuclear Projects director Bruce Breslow told lawmakers Tuesday the Yucca Mountain project will be the subject of hearings later this year that should result in its death.
He said Nevada expects the Department of Energy will win its motion to withdraw the licensing application for the nuclear waste dump but that the industry and other states that want to move their toxic waste to Nevada will undoubtedly appeal to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“If the NRC upholds that, for all intents and purposes, Yucca Mountain will be dead,” he told the legislative High Level Nuclear Waste Committee on Tuesday. “This is the first time in all these years that the bookmakers have us favored at this time.”
Breslow’s comments brought a plea by former Nevada Gov. Bob List to reconsider the state’s absolute opposition to Yucca Mountain. List, who represented the nuclear power industry for years, said he is no longer doing that.
List urged lawmakers to consider the “possible economic benefits of the repository, related research facilities and possible reprocessing facilities that could come.” He said when reprocessing technology is more developed, that waste could become a multibillion-dollar gold mine for Nevada.
“I believe it’s time for the elected leaders of Nevada to take a fresh look at the project,” List said.
Breslow countered by saying that water is already allocated to users and not available for processing, which requires huge amounts of water.
He said the repository would be so radioactive and the temperatures inside so high that it would be practically impossible to get the waste out for reprocessing.
Even if the waste could be recovered and reprocessed, Breslow said, Nevada wouldn’t benefit much because the federal government would own the waste. He said Nevada wouldn’t be able to claim the huge profits some politicians are claiming it would.
“We’re storing waste we don’t own on land we don’t own,” he said. “It doesn’t work.”
The Yucca Mountain battle has been going on for 25 years and, for most of that time, Nevadans were being told they would lose the fight and end up with the dump. But President Barack Obama kept his promise to shut down the project this year, cutting off funding for it. After that, the Department of Energy moved to withdraw the application for licensing.
Opponents including the power industry and other states with radioactive waste are fighting that, arguing only Congress could decide to stop the licensing process. Breslow said, however, the act that created the project clearly gives DoE the authority to withdraw its application for cause.
DoE officials have recently said the site isn’t safe geologically.