(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Nevada remains in limbo over the status of Yucca Mountain as a potential repository for the nation’s nuclear waste even with a work stoppage on the project review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission due to funding limitations, a state official says.
Bruce Breslow, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said ultimately it will be the courts and Congress who will decide whether the licensing process for Yucca Mountain moves forward.
“Well I think the state would be happy about it if things actually finally led to a conclusion, but we’re a long way away from a conclusion when it comes to Yucca Mountain,” he said in reference to the work stoppage.
Breslow was asked to respond to a report Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the NRC closing down review work on the Yucca Mountain project. The newspaper reported that questions were being raised about whether NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko was acting on his own in directing the work stoppage.
The NRC rejected any such claims.
Groups that support the continuation of licensing at Yucca Mountain have complained that Jaczko is halting the review without authority.
Randi Thompson, spokeswoman for Nevadans 4 Carbon-Free Energy, said Jaczko formerly worked for dump opponent U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“So he does not come into this position with an open mind on the Yucca issue,” she said.
Nevadans 4 Carbon-Free Energy is interested in turning Yucca Mountain into a R&D complex to research renewable energies and develop nuclear reprocessing technologies.
Thompson said also there is a significant difference between funding construction of Yucca Mountain and performing the document review necessary for licensing.
Jaczko, “is making a big jump between saying there is no money for Yucca and there is no money to review the documents,” she said.
The NRC is obligated by law to review the documents to assess whether Yucca Mountain would make s safe repository, Thompson said.
Breslow said Nevada is a party to a lawsuit in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, where several states and other government entities are seeking to stop the U.S. Department of Energy from withdrawing its Yucca Mountain license.
The state is also waiting for a decision by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on a ruling by the licensing board denying the DOE’s right to withdraw its license,” he said.
That decision is not likely to come until after the November election, Breslow said.
“The election will have a big impact on the future of Yucca Mountain,” he said.
“So we’re all in no man’s land waiting for the NRC’s decision on the appeal, on the federal licensing decisions and the appeal, on who wins the elections because that will have an effect on whether Yucca gets funded in the future, and things like that,” Breslow said.
Thompson agreed about the effect of the November election, saying a Sharron Angle win in the Nevada U.S. Senate race could change the future of Yucca Mountain.
Breslow said work at the actual Yucca Mountain site stopped nearly a year ago.
President Barack Obama announced early this year of his intention to phase out funding for Yucca Mountain and to seek withdraw of the license application.
But Breslow said other states want the licensing process to continue so Yucca Mountain will be available to bury their radioactive waste even though Nevada has proven it is unsafe.
“And the bottom line is every other state wants to dump its waste in Nevada and Nevada wouldn’t receive a dime for it,” he said.