President Donald Trump’s budget revives plans to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
The budget “provides $120 million to restart licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste,
repository and initiate a robust interim storage program,” according to a budget summary. “These investments would accelerate progress on fulfilling the Federal Government’s obligations to address nuclear waste, enhance national security, and reduce future taxpayer burden.”
Energy Secretary Rick Perry did not commit to blocking the project when questioned by Nevada’s Democratic Sen. Cortez Masto during his confirmation hearing. A majority of Nevada’s residents and virtually all of Nevada’s elected officials oppose opening the Yucca facility.
Plans to store waste at Yucca Mountain had been killed by political opposition from former Nevada Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, creating legal liabilities for the federal government that could exceed $50 billion. Barack Obama prevented the site from opening, leaving nuclear plants without a good place to store spent nuclear fuel.
The Department of Energy submitted its proposal to build Yucca Mountain in June of 2008, and the project met the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) safety standards in October of 2014. The NRC released a report in May determining the site would have no adverse environmental impact on the local groundwater, soil, ecology or public health for a period of one million years.
The Department of Energy (DOE) didn’t account for about $25 billion in costs when considering plans to build separate defense and commercial nuclear waste repositories at Yucca Mountain, according to an audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The lack of a permanent site to store waste had been a major drag on the nuclear power industry.
America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially-operated nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. The average nuclear plant employs between 400 and 700 highly-skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
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