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Obama Has A New Plan to Stash Nuclear Waste

Energy secretary Steven Chu gives some details about alternatives to the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste site.
March 6, 2009

The Obama administration may be drawing up plans to store nuclear waste at multiple sites around the country, instead of in a central depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

As I noted last week, Obama’s budget cuts money to the controversial Yucca Mountain site. Earlier this week, in a U.S. Senate hearing, energy secretary Steven Chu confirmed that the administration no longer considers the site an option. Concerns have been raised about the safety of the site, which apparently was chosen without much careful study. However, the government has an obligation to do something with the waste. The government has collected tens of billions of dollars to create a permanent facility to store waste, one that by law was supposed to be ready by 1998. Instead, utilities have had to pay to store the waste themselves.

Now more details are coming out about what the Obama administration plans to do.

From Energy Washington Week (subscription required):

The Obama administration is crafting an alternative nuclear waste storage program that relies on a mixture of interim and multiple longer-term storage facilities, but no “permanent” waste facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, according to DOE Secretary Steven Chu. The prospects of such a plan–to be developed within a year–raises a host of concerns that states and others are voicing over the legality of such a move and what it means for the multibillion-dollar nuclear-waste fund, say stakeholders …

Details of the administration’s plan are still forthcoming, but Chu said it would make use of available and new interim storage sites and a process of solidifying waste that he says NRC approves as safe. DOE may pair the interim facilities, which would be scattered throughout states and regions, with multiple longer-term facilities.

According to the Washington Post, “About $7.7 billion has been sunk into the project since its inception.”

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