Sandoval: No way to Yucca Mountain
Gov. Brian Sandoval played his gubernatorial trump card Monday, telling the nation’s energy secretary that Nevada doesn’t support resurrecting Yucca Mountain as a high-level nuclear waste dump or hosting an interim storage site in the state, no matter what officials in rural Nye County say.
“There should be no uncertainty or misunderstanding of my position,” Sandoval wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
“The state of Nevada does not support the location of any such site within the state and will oppose any attempt to either resurrect the defunct Yucca Mountain project or locate an interim storage facility at Yucca or elsewhere in Nevada,” Sandoval said.
Nye County commissioners sent a letter to Chu last week, expressing the county’s willingness to accept spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors around the country after the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future recommended that the DOE seek willing hosts to store nuclear waste.
“We want to explore and define potential incentives, and move this urgently needed program forward as promptly as possible,” wrote Lorinda Wichman, chairwoman of the county commission.
President Barack Obama created the advisory panel two years ago to find new strategies for managing the nation’s growing inventory of nuclear waste. The U.S. has more than 71,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at about 75 operating and shut-down reactor sites around the country. The U.S. produces more than 2,200 tons of spent fuel a year.
The DOE is now forming an internal study group to consider the advisory panel’s recommendations.
For decades, Yucca Mountain 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas was targeted as the nation’s nuclear repository until the Obama administration canceled the project and cut off funding. While critics of Yucca Mountain maintain the project is dead, others cite the “suspension” of licensing proceedings by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as being less than definitive.
Sandoval said given that disparity, the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act as amended prohibits locating an interim storage site in Nevada while Yucca Mountain is still a potential repository location. He also added that state law makes it illegal for any person or government to store high-level radioactive waste in Nevada.
In his letter, Sandoval said while he’s cognizant of the rural county’s willing overture, “Nye County does not and cannot speak for the state of Nevada.”
He said Nevada “wholeheartedly supports” the advisory panel’s recommendations and believes a consent-based approach “represents the best chance for ultimately solving the nation’s nuclear waste management problem.”
“However, Nevada will not consent to an interim storage facility or repository being considered in the state,” Sandoval wrote.