Nevada wants federal government to declare nuke dump in the mothballs dead

After a decade in limbo, Nevada is urging US nuclear regulators to finally end a shelved proposal to bury the nation’s most radioactive waste beneath a windswept volcanic ridge north of Las Vegas.

“The time has come to put this long-dormant and unproven federal project out of its misery,” the state said in a document filed Tuesday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the Yucca Mountain project. “Fundamental justice requires that this proceeding be terminated if possible.”

The NRC, which regulates and licenses U.S. nuclear power plants and the handling of radioactive materials, did not immediately comment on the state’s request. Commission spokesman David McIntyre said the panel would review it.

The document urges the federal agency to reopen its assessment and ultimately end 40 years of efforts by the Energy Department to prove that the Yucca Mountain site would be a safe place to transport highly radioactive waste being shipped. from power plants across the country.

It derides the repository as “an unfunded, zombie-esque federal project that has been begging unsuccessfully through the halls of Congress for support for credits for over a decade.”

An estimated $15 billion was spent drilling a 5-mile U-shaped test tunnel and conducting studies to see whether 77,000 metric tons (70,000 metric tons) of the deadliest material known to man could remain safely buried on the planet for thousands of years. Location.

Some estimates put the final cost of constructing the repository at $100 billion, including drilling a honeycomb of underground rail tunnels and designing a way to contain the waste and prevent leakage into underground water sources.

The US doesn’t have a long-term plan for managing or disposing of hazardous nuclear waste produced and stored in reactors nationwide, but Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has been talking in recent months about the need to find one.

Nevada’s proposal came the same day the department announced it would spend $16 million promoting what it called “consent-based” site selection and spent fuel management.

The government promised US nuclear power producers in 1982 that they would find a place to store radioactive spent nuclear fuel. Congress in 1987 narrowed the selection to Yucca Mountain, a safe corner of a sprawling federal reservation where nuclear weapons were detonated about 100 miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas.

But plans for the repository were stalled after 2010, when then-U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration blocked funding.

Some elected officials in rural Nevada are in favor of the proposal and the jobs it could create. But most of the state’s congressional delegations and lawmakers have strongly opposed what Democratic U.S. Representative Dina Titus Tuesday called a “dangerous project to force a nuclear waste dump in Nevada.”

“Nevada does not use nuclear energy; we do not produce nuclear waste; and we should not be obliged to store it,” Titus said in a statement.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, US Sens, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, Attorney General Aaron Ford and US Representatives Steven Horsford and Susie Lee — all Democrats — also endorsed the state’s call to action. The state launched a website that focuses on what it calls dangers and flaws in the plan.

The licensing process itself — a review of scientific and technical data amid challenges from the state and other adversaries — is expected to cost $330 million and take five years to complete.

The state said Tuesday it wants a “summary decision” from the NRC, not a full series of hearings. Challenges posed by a series of Department of Energy findings on the geology of the site and the transportation of nuclear material would remain unanswered.

Nuclear power provides about 20% of the electricity in the US, accounting for about half of the country’s carbon-free energy. Most of the 93 reactors operating in the country are located east of the Mississippi River.

Nevada’s request to the NRC also noted that the effects of human-caused climate change were not studied before the Yucca Mountain project was halted.

A recent Associated Press look at energy policy across the country found momentum for the first expansion of nuclear reactor construction in more than three decades. A survey found that about two-thirds of states now say nuclear power will help replace fossil fuels in some way.

A $1 trillion infrastructure package that President Joe Biden signed into law last November will allocate approximately $2.5 billion to advanced reactor demonstration projects.