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August 22, 2014

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Report: Yucca Mountain costs double other alternatives

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WASHINGTON -- A government report released today said developing Yucca Mountain would cost twice as much as other options for storing nuclear waste, but that both interim or on-site storage alternatives would face long-term costs and potential political pitfalls.

The report comes the day after a longtime advocate of nuclear power said during a speech in Washington that the Yucca Mountain project is dead.

Nevada’s lawmakers said the developments are more evidence that the proposed nuclear waste dump 90 miles north of Las Vegas will not be built.

“This $100 billion dinosaur’s days are numbered,” Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley said in a statement. “It’s long past time those who produced this nuclear garbage take responsibility for finding a real solution to this issue.”

Former Sen. Pete Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who had been chairman of two powerful committees handling Yucca Mountain issues, said during a talk Tuesday at the National Press Club that it was time to consider alternatives to Yucca Mountain.

"We need to be realistic here," Domenici said, according to an account in ClimateWire, which is also published on the New York Times Web site. “Yucca Mountain, once chosen as the site for permanent disposal of nuclear waste, is dead."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he has received assurances from the Obama administration that the Yucca Mountain project will be zeroed out in next year’s federal budget, which is expected by February.

The Government Accountability Office report released today had been requested by Reid, Republican Sen. John Ensign and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who is chair of the Environment and Public Works committee.

The report surveys the higher costs of Yucca Mountain compared to storing nuclear waste where it now sits at existing nuclear power plants or at a pair of interim storage facilities. Operating Yucca Mountain at double its planned capacity would cost between $41 billion and $67 billion, compared to $13 billion to $34 billion for on-site storage handling similar quantities of waste or $15 billion to $29 billion for interim storage.

However, the report notes that even if waste were stored at an on-site or interim storage facility, it would still be needed to be relocated eventually to a geologic storage facility, which would create additional costs. The report also noted political challenges of siting a storage facility and relocating the waste through communities.

Still, Nevada’s lawmakers welcomed the report as highlighting what they have long claimed – that temporary storage would be cheaper than Yucca Mountain.

“This report confirms what most Nevadans already know, that the President made the right decision to stop the Yucca Mountain Project and focus on finding alternatives to dealing with nuclear waste,” Reid said in a statement.

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