The United States should designate one or more long-term atomic waste storage locations to replace canceled plans for an underground repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., a blue-ribbon task force said in a preliminary report issued on Friday (see GSN, July 6).
The blue-ribbon group's report does not recommend where to establish a replacement site. Still, a significant number of the group's members think New Mexico, which is already home to a waste site, could be more amenable than Nevada to hosting a national repository, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The Obama administration canceled plans to establish the Yucca Mountain facility, and in January 2010 established the panel to explore alternatives for the storage of U.S. civilian nuclear waste. Critics of the Yucca plan voiced concerns over the potential breakdown of site components, leakages of dangerous material into outside water supplies and threats posed by seismic activity. The move by Washington, though, has proved controversial and faces legal challenges from states looking to hand off their nuclear waste.
The panel called for the designation of a single temporary location to hold atomic waste now at 10 shuttered reactors at nine locations. A central holding location would have fewer vulnerabilities than the current arrangement, in which only one of the sites does not rely on dry cask storage, said the group (see GSN, March 24).
Opponents of the proposal, though, said dry casks are reliable for long periods of years and establishing a single holding location would involve significant expenses and possibly dangerous nuclear waste shipments.
The assessment says a new waste storage project should be managed by a new federal entity rather than the Energy Department. It suggests principles for a new site designation scheme, including limiting to local jurisdictions the authority to reject a proposed location.
The panel is overseen by former Indiana Democratic lawmaker Lee Hamilton and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. It failed to achieve consensus on whether to press for nuclear fuel recycling in the United States, which was seen as having little impact on the necessity of storing used nuclear material in the coming 30 years, the Post reported (Steven Mufson, Washington Post, July 28).