Draft Federal Budget Calls For Yucca Mountain Revival

Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada and both of the state's U.S. senators, Dean Heller, a Republican and Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, issued statements this week in opposition to the Trump administration's proposal to restart the licensing process for the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Yucca MountainGov. Sandoval said in a statement that his office had received notice of the intent to restart the process, but said he would also “leave no stone unturned in fighting any attempt to revive this failed idea.

In its draft budget, the Trump administration allotted fresh funding to restart the licensing, which was put on indefinite hold by the Barack Obama administration after the initiative ran into stiff opposition from the state.

The World Nuclear Association reported the $4.4 billion 2019 fiscal year budget, which begins Oct. 1, 2018, included $120 million for the repository and for an interim storage program designated as a temporary measure for spent nuclear power plant fuel. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, meanwhile, included $50 million in its $971 million 2019 budget request for work “related” to the Yucca Mountain project, despite the overall scaling back of the NRC, which proposes a payroll of about 150 less than 2018. At that, the NRC's total budget request is higher than it was the previous year by $60 million, most of the difference related to the Yucca Mountain expenditure.

Although 90 percent of the NRC budget comes from fees from nuclear power companies, there are no fees involved in the Yucca Mountain repository, which would be a federal program, although a 0.1 cent per kWh levy is imposed on nuclear power companies to cover long-term waste storage.

The Yucca Mountain repository idea is the most studied of the long-term storage options for the United States, but it has mixed support from the state of Nevada. In a recent statement, Sen. Heller said he would “continue to fight to make sure that this project doesn't see the light of day.”

Sen. Masto said the attempt to restart the licensing for the repository was “disgraceful.”

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