Yucca Mountain project may be on last legs | NevadaAppeal.com

Yucca Mountain project may be on last legs

Nevada’s nuclear-waste expert said Tuesday he believes the Yucca Mountain project is on its last legs.

“I do believe we’re very very close to putting this thing away,” Nuclear Projects Manager Bob Loux told the Board of Examiners.

Loux said, however, the Department of Energy has sharply cut back Nevada’s appropriation for the year and, without an infusion of $1.1 million in state cash, he won’t have the money to prepare arguments that could finally block the application to license Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear garbage dump.

The Energy Department suffered major damage to the project this year – most significantly in July when a federal appeals court ruling threw out the radiation emission standards DOE wanted to use.

The court ruled those standards can’t be rewritten and lowered, that the DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency must use safety standards set by the National Academy of Science requiring the environment and people be protected for upwards of 400,000 years, not just 10,000 years.

In addition, he said the agency’s rules for the project have been rejected.

“They have no emission standards. They have no rules,” he said.

Loux said the DOE and the nuclear power industry are “trying some type of Machiavellian plot” allowing them to start the licensing process anyway. He said his agency and the Attorney General’s Office are prepared to ask any application they file be tossed out.

“We think legally they can’t proceed,” he said. “There’s so much uncertainty now, we don’t know how things can proceed.”

The biggest roadblock, he said, is a general consensus that Yucca Mountain will be unable to meet requirements it contain radiation to safe levels for more than 100,000 years.

“There’s no appetite in Congress to step in and change the standards,” he said

He told the board the state money is needed to keep his attorneys and expert scientists on staff into next year to prepare for and fend off any new attempts by the DOE to push the project forward since the federal money Nevada is supposed to get has been withheld.

Loux said another key sign the project is on its last legs is that the Yucca Mountain project’s $800 million budget request has been tentatively reduced to just $131 million.

“That’s devastating to their program,” he said. “I think it’s about done. They just have to realize it.”

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or 687-8750.