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Panel selected to review nuclear waste options

KEVIN FREKING
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has appointed former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft to oversee a commission that will recommend alternatives to Yucca Mountain for storing spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.

The commission will have 15 members, including scientists, industry representatives and former elected officials, the Energy Department said Friday.

Congress had designated Yucca Mountain as the site for the nation’s first permanent nuclear waste repository. But Nevada lawmakers, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have strongly opposed the site, which is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

President Barack Obama also said he doesn’t view Yucca Mountain as a workable option. He and Congress have drastically cut spending on developing the repository, providing just enough to keep the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission moving forward with a license application in favor of the project.

The commission will recommend alternative solutions in an interim report within 18 months. A final report will be completed within two years.

One thing is clear from the announcement Thursday: Yucca Mountain will not be considered as an option, officials said.

“As the president has said many times, we’re done with Yucca. We need to be about looking at alternatives,” said Carol Browner, an Obama adviser on energy and climate change.

While welcoming the announcement, some industry officials believe Yucca Mountain should not be ruled out.

“The commission should be focused on crafting a workable consensus on how the federal government can finally meet its legal obligations,” said Christopher Guith with the Institute for 21st Century Energy, an affiliation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “To do so, it should consider all options, including Yucca Mountain.”