By Steve Tetreault
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WASHINGTON — Analysts at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday completed a safety evaluation that provides Yucca Mountain usually positive marks, but stops short of recommending it be granted a license to operate as a nuclear waste site.
The report was released four days prior to the Obama administration released its 2016 fiscal spending budget with no income proposed for Yucca Mountain.
In the final pieces of a five-volume security report, the agency staff said it has “reasonable assurance” the proposed repository could meet safety requirements to deal with thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel, insert them into rust-resistant canisters and inject those into the mountain 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The report comes on the heels of an NRC volume in October that concluded a combination of Yucca Mountain’s natural geology plus titanium tunnel drip shields “with reasonable expectation” could satisfy security guidelines to hold the nuclear waste entombed and away from groundwater for periods up to a million years.
It was not an unqualified testimonial. Following reviewing an 8,600-page Division of Energy application for the internet site, the NRC employees said it would propose conditions on any license.
Robert Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, stated some of the recommended license circumstances could be “potentially extremely substantial,” like flight restrictions over the website and needs that specific waste canisters be certified for repository operations.
And an NRC employees report issued last month pointed out the government does not have full handle of the repository location and lacks the essential water rights to operate the site. For that reason, the NRC mentioned Thursday, the agency employees “is not recommending issuance of a construction authorization at this time.”
Completion of the extended-awaited security reports properly tosses Yucca Mountain back to Capitol Hill. NRC leaders have said they would need to have far more cash from Congress to move to the next stage of license hearings.
The Yucca project once was a major Department of Power undertaking but was mothballed by President Barack Obama in 2010. The NRC continues to function on it under a court order and then only until existing funding runs out or if lawmakers replenish its spending budget. About $ 4.7 million is left as of Dec. 31, according to the NRC.
Taking its cue from Obama, the Division of Energy now says the project “is unworkable.”
The release of the final two volumes of the NRC staff “safety evaluation report” triggered fresh calls in Congress to revive Yucca Mountain. At the identical time, Nevada lawmakers vowed to hold rapidly in the state’s fight against high level nuclear waste.
“Today’s report confirms that it is achievable to safely dispose of nuclear waste in the repository at Yucca Mountain, and that the U.S. Department of Energy is in a position to safely operate the facility whilst the waste is being deposited,” mentioned Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of a Senate power subcommittee.
“To continue to oppose Yucca Mountain because of radiation issues is to ignore science,” Alexander mentioned.
But, stated Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., “The NRC employees does not suggest authorizing construction of Yucca Mountain.”
“This project will by no means see the light of day and absolutely everyone must accept that and move on,” Reid stated.
“The federal government demands Nevada’s water, land and sources before the project could ever move forward,” said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. “As Nevada’s United States senator, I will fight that from ever taking place.”
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., stated the NRC research “revealed substantive flaws in the DOE application. The reports do not modify the fact that efforts to restart the failed Yucca Mountain project are a waste of time and sources.”
In the new fiscal budget, the Department of Power proposes to devote $ 478 million in Nevada, a 3.four percent improve from what Congress appropriated for this year.
Most of the spending is for activities related to nuclear security, stockpile stewardship, safety and counterterrorism at the Nevada National Safety Web site.