Nevada loses nuclear waste grant
LAS VEGAS – Nevada has been turned down for a $13.75 million nuclear waste grant, potentially threatening the state’s legal and science campaigns against the Yucca Mountain Project.
After learning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had rejected the application, the state’s nuclear waste manager said Tuesday he may seek $1 million in supplemental funds from the state Board of Examiners and the Legislature later this year to stay afloat.
“I guess we’re going to sit tight and see what happens, and then make a decision whether to go to the Legislature or not,” said Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. “We can limp along here for now. We’re probably OK until November or December.”
Loux said the impact is difficult to measure because the Energy Department also is facing uncertainties due to a budget impasse in Congress and a legal ruling this summer that invalidated a key radiation safety standard.
DOE delays on the Yucca project could buy time for the state until Congress acts or federal courts hear a pending lawsuit that seeks additional government funding, Loux said.
The financial setback comes when the state needs additional money the most. It has increased spending on lawyers, technical experts and research to prepare for Yucca Mountain license hearings before the NRC.
State officials had projected they would spend about $10 million a year for the next four years or more to mount an aggressive challenge.
The state recently renewed a $6 million contract with Egan, Fitzpatrick, Malsch & Cynkar, of McLean, Va., to represent the state during Yucca licensing, an amount that also funds major technical consultants.
To finance its repository research, Nevada has relied on an appropriation from Congress each year. But lawmakers allocated only $1 million for 2004, about 80 percent less than the state requested.
No money has yet been set aside for 2005.
The NRC turned down Nevada’s grant request in a 43-page opinion issued Thursday that was received by the state Tuesday.
The agency said federal laws restricted its ability to give Nevada the money it sought. Even if the request could be honored, the grant would have forced cutbacks in other programs, it said.