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Commission allows closure of Yucca Mountain nuclear dump


U.S. Department of Energy

Yucca Mountain is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Updated Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 | 1:07 p.m.

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WASHINGTON -- A divided Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada.

The commission split, 2-2, on whether to uphold or reject a decision by an independent nuclear licensing board. The board voted last year to block the Energy Department's from withdrawing its application for Yucca Mountain, a remote site 90 miles from Las Vegas. The licensing board said the government failed to make a scientific case for why the application should be withdrawn.

Despite the split vote, the NRC said in an order Friday that the licensing board should continue steps to close out work on Yucca Mountain by the end of the month, citing "budgetary limitations."

The Energy Department has not requested additional funding for Yucca Mountain, and NRC spending on Yucca expires at the end of the month.

The NRC decision appeared to be a victory for NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who last year ordered NRC staff to halt work on the Yucca project.

Jaczko, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Yucca Mountain's leading congressional opponent, has made a series of decisions to delay or halt work on the Nevada dump since becoming chairman in 2009. His actions have infuriated congressional Republicans, who accuse Jaczko of carrying out the wishes of Reid and President Barack Obama, who appointed Jaczko as NRC chairman and promised in the 2008 campaign to kill the Yucca Mountain project.

The NRC vote may not be the final word on the issue.

A federal appeals court in Washington is considering a suit by South Carolina, Washington state and others that want to ship spent nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain.

Congress chose Yucca Mountain as the leading candidate for disposal of radioactive nuclear waste. But opponents are concerned about contamination, and the Obama administration has said it would not consider the site and would look for alternatives.

The appeals court ruled in July that it would not intervene in the case because the NRC had not made a final decision on the status of Yucca Mountain.

A staff member for an NRC commissioner who supports the project said the issue is far from over.

"We don't view this order as telling DOE to close Yucca Mountain," said Ho Nieh, chief of staff to Commissioner William Ostendorff, a Republican who has clashed with Jaczko over the Yucca Mountain issue.

As a practical matter, work on Yucca Mountain will not continue in the short term, Nieh and others said, because neither the Energy Department nor the NRC has allocated money for the project.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said Yucca Mountain is not a "workable option."

Jaczko's actions on Yucca Mountain have been criticized by House Republicans, by his own scientific staff and by the NRC's Inspector General. The IG report found that Jaczko acted within his authority and broke no laws. But it also concluded that to get his way on the issue he failed to be forthcoming with other commissioners

Jaczko declined to comment Friday, and a spokesman for the NRC declined to reveal how individual commissioners voted. However it is widely believed that Jaczko and fellow Democrat William Magwood voted overturn the licensing board decision, while Republicans Ostendorff and Kristine Svinicki voted to uphold it. Nieh said Friday that Ostendorff voted to uphold the licensing board.

Commissioner George Apostolakis, a Democrat, recused himself from the vote because he has worked on Yucca-related issues in the past.

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  1. Another government blunder. Yucca Mountain was built to hold Nuclear waste. The residents of Nevada should open their arms except the waste, take the money, jobs, taxes it would generate. If there ever was a accident at the facility, praviling winds would push the fallout to Utah, the same as it did in the 50's when open air Nuclear Bombs were tested. We now have Bombing Ranges, Area 51, Military Installations and Lord knows what else and you want to stop Yucca Mountain...Sound dumb to me.

  2. More like jobs saved! Yucca Mountain lies along an active fault, and trucks would have had to send waste through Las Vegas to get it to Yucca. Who wants to do a vacation in a radioactive wasteland? Every nuclear policy expert and seismologist knows what would have happened if Yucca had become a toxic waste dump. How would we ever get companies to relocate here if Nevada turns into a radioactive wasteland?

  3. I believe that President Obama is going to lose his campaign for re-election. That will probably mean a complete reversal in Presidential policy concerning Yucca Mountain, as well as the eventual change in the composition of the membership on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As a result, the time is quickly passing to physically close the Yucca Mountain tunnel, thwarting plans to complete the facility.

    I am 100% serious that Harry Reid should condition any further legislative assistance to President Obama on the President's use of his Commander in Chief powers to test bunker buster bombs on the Yucca Mountain tunnel. Yes, I mean bomb the tunnel into collapse.

    Back in 2005 or so, I went on a tour of the Yucca Mountain Tunnel hosted by Bechtel or some other contractor. The "side tunnel" I toured, which would be used to store casks of radioactive fuel rods, had cracks in its walls and ceiling. That's all I needed to see, as a layman, to tell me radiation could leak out of the tunnel.

    However, earlier this year I met a Fulbright Scholar PhD geologist, who is a University of California professor. I said to him "Candidly I can't see a volcano forming and disrupting the physical integrity of Yucca Mountain even in my great grandchildren's lifetimes." He said "You are wrong. Find and read the geological research."

    So this hot shot geologist, who has nothing to gain whether Yucca Mountain is open or closed, told me that Clark County is in store for volcanic eruptions near Yucca Mountain some time in the next 120 years!

    That's the problem with Republicans. They are as dumb as the Japanese capitalists who put a nuclear power plant where it could be hit by a massive tidal wave. How do you say Fukushima in Paiute?

  4. What I find hilarious about this whole thing is the Republican Party, as a whole, which has been taken over by the far right, ALWAYS questions global warming and any kind of science at all. Even if 95 percent of scientists believe in something, and have proved that it is a given fact, the Republicans always cite the 5 percent that have disproved the theory based on slight of hand, flawed ideas and erroneous information.

    But now here comes Yucca Mountain Project (YMP).

    Because YMP is something that the entire Republican Party grasps and wants to make happen, all of a sudden they are believers. They are BLINDED by science. They think it's wonderful. They all act like they actually paid attention in high school in science class. Why? Because it fits their agenda to get rid of the most harmful stuff known to mankind and get it out of their States and throw it at Southern Nevada and turn it into a nuclear waste toilet.

    All of a sudden Republican politicians are embracing science. They now see the light because scientists, who they disbelieve before, are speaking their tune, their agenda.

    It's really transparent, clearly revealed to be a total snow job. They want to screw Nevada. They want us to do something that is against the best interests, safety, health and welfare of everyone here in Southern Nevada.

    The fact of the matter is we don't want it. Nevada has a say in this matter. We don't want it. We never wanted it.

    No means no.

    And it still means no.

  5. South Carolina is were the waste was created and south Carolina is wear this crap should be stored.

  6. Hey Republicans, remember that personal responsibility you always talk about? Well, it's time to live by your words and have some integrity. If other States want to use nuclear power, well they better figure out what to do with it and stop pushing it on to someone else. We're not the nation's dumping ground.

  7. Yet another fubar by Obama's administration and the nutcase liberals, close it down and remove more paying jobs for people to do. Just keep it up and eventually there will be no more money left in the coffers to support the liberal's gene pool and their no good for nothing offspring who've followed their parent's dream job, sucking off the system. I personally hope this does occur; I'm sick and tired of watching my tax money continually being dumped down the endless toilet bowl enabling liberals sucking off the system for generation after generation after generation.

  8. Funny how these Republicans suddenly want government spending. Tommorow they will be crying about deficits. Keep the waste where it is generated. Moving the waste creates more danger. The active nuclear reactor will be no more safer without the waste. Nuclear reactor sites are the most secured in the nation. No security expert would advise putting all your eggs in one basket. These Republicans say it's safe in casks; so why move it then?

    I know put on an island in Alaska near Russia; then that bridge to nowhere will be to somewhere and Sarah Palin can watch it from her porch.