Nuke agency looks at old Nevada site
WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking steps to review the planned revival of the long-dormant nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.
On Tuesday, the nuclear agency said it will spend up to $110,000 from its current budget to gather documents and other information about the Yucca Mountain site, which President Barack Obama’s administration abandoned in 2010. President Donald Trump’s administration has begun steps to revive the repository site amid bipartisan opposition from Nevada lawmakers.
The nuclear agency said its preliminary activities “will enable efficient, informed decisions” as officials prepare to consider an expected Energy Department application to store spent, radioactive fuel from the nation’s commercial nuclear fleet at the remote site outside Las Vegas.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican seen among the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents in 2018, called the nuclear agency’s action “irresponsible” and “yet another waste of taxpayer money on a failed project that has already cost the federal government billions of dollars over the past 30 years.”
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, a possible Senate challenger next year, criticized the nuclear agency’s action as a way for the Trump administration to “stack the deck against Nevada and … revive the unworkable Yucca scheme.”
The Energy Department has dismantled much of its infrastructure related to Yucca since 2010, with key personnel retired or at new jobs and “truckloads of related resources and documents” moved to facilities across the country, Titus said.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Kristine Svinicki said the decision to spend $110,000 in previously appropriated funds was “not a resumption” of an administrative proceeding suspended by the agency in 2011. Rather the action launched “appropriate steps to develop the agency’s readiness” to consider the Yucca Mountain project, if it proceeds as expected, she said.
Svinicki, a Republican, was named the nuclear agency’s chairman by Trump earlier this year and has served on the panel since 2008.
The nuclear agency has estimated it would cost at least $330 million to complete a multi-year review of the Yucca Mountain project. The agency has requested $30 million for Yucca-related costs in the budget year that begins Oct. 1.