DOE Says No Chance For Yucca Atomic Waste Site

A top U.S. Energy Department official on Monday said there is no chance of reviving a plan to build a long-term underground atomic waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 13).

"We do not see Yucca Mountain as a solution here," Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said during an international conference in Vienna, Austria, on nuclear safety. "It is time to turn the page and try to find a better set of solutions."

Republican lawmakers and a number of Democrats have strongly protested the Obama administration's 2010 decision to request withdrawal of a license application for Yucca Mountain with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The waste site had faced considerable opposition from Nevada politicians and residents.

"I think any policy -- the success of which can only be measured over many decades -- can only succeed with strong bipartisan support and strong support from the communities affected," Poneman said.

"It was equally clear that Yucca Mountain was not going to have that kind of support," the Obama official continued.

The commission determined that Yucca Mountain was a reasonable nuclear waste storage site, even while the administration questioned its safety, GOP legislators said in June.

The White House has directed a blue-ribbon task force to explore alternatives for the storage of U.S. civilian nuclear waste. There are 104 atomic reactors in the United States and their generated waste is held in temporary storage conditions that have been criticized by some as vulnerable to attack (see GSN, March 24).

Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano in Vienna urged nations to analyze safety threats to their atomic energy reactors within the next year and a half. The assessment would be intended to ensure they would not be undone by natural disasters similar to the earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March (see GSN, June 20).

Amano additionally suggested enhanced global safety inspections, or peer assessments, on reactors across the planet that would be overseen by the Vienna-based body. That suggestion could face opposition from countries that wish for safety issues to remain under their governments' purview.

Poneman said Washington was a "strong supporter" of the peer assessment suggestion. "We have called in the IAEA many times to provide additional oversight," he said.

"I think the question that is going to be presented is whether the mandate of the IAEA is going to run to that additional level," the Energy Department official said (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, June 21).

June 21, 2011
About

A top U.S. Energy Department official on Monday said there is no chance of reviving a plan to build a long-term underground atomic waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 13).