Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 | 12:53 p.m.
WASHINGTON - The planned 2020 opening of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump is now an "extreme stretch," the outgoing director of the project said today.
It is unlikely the repository 90 miles north of Las Vegas can be approved in three yeas as planned, while potential federal budget cuts fueled by Nevada's political opposition will make it difficult to build the project on time.
"That date is in significant jeopardy," said Edward Sproat, the Energy Department's project director, a Bush administraion appointee who will be stepping down in January. "That's going to be an extreme stretch to make."
Sproat could not estimate when the waste dump could open.
Even though the department has achieved a series of important milestones since Sproat took over the project in 2006, the future remains uncertain.
Sproat said the department would require up to $2 billion annually to construct the dump if its application is approved in coming years. That's more than four times what Yucca receives annually from Congress now.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has convinced Congress to severely cut Yucca's budget and has promised more funding cuts next year when President-elect Barack Obama takes office.
Reid has cut $100 million annually from the Yucca budget since becoming majority leader in 2006, gutting it by more than 20 percent a year.
Obama opposes Yucca Mountain, and has also vowed to pull back the license application.