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Under the presidency of George W. Bush, Yucca Mountain was designated as the US’s sole storage facility for high-level nuclear waste, and was under review to receive a license that would have sent 70 million metric tonnes of radioactive waste from reactors all around the country, to be stored there.
Then in September 2010, under orders from Obama, and as part of his plan to put an end to the Yucca Mountain project, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) halted the license review process.
Supporters of the project including many states that have large stockpiles of nuclear waste waiting to be sent to a long-term storage site, such as South Carolina and Washington, have just been able to celebrate a small victory after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, ruled that the NRCs decision to halt the licensing review was not supported by the law.
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The Obama administration and the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have been pushing to end the Yucca Mountain project, and even after this decision are still confident.
The NRC must now continue with the license application, but due to a lack of funds, the application will never be finished, making it a rather hollow victory for the project’s supporters.
Only $11 million remains for funding the review, enough for maybe several weeks of work, but far less than needed to actually complete the process, and open the facility. Congress will unlikely approve further funding, so the project will die when the $11 million runs out.
At an energy conference in Las Vegas Reid confidently stated that “the fact is, they have no money. The place is locked up, it’s padlocked. Nothing is happening with Yucca Mountain.”
The state of Nevada has always been against the project, claiming that it was wrong that the entire US would send its nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, situated in a state that had no nuclear power plants of its own.
The US government must look for an alternative if the Yucca facility fails to achieve a license. By law the government is obligated to take waste from all nuclear power plants across the country, and already has enough waiting for storage that even if Yucca Mountain was opened today, it could almost be completely filled.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com