Interim storage plan faces opposition

25 May 2005

An upcoming Department of Energy (DoE) funding bill for the $29.7 billion fiscal year 2006 Energy and Water appropriations budget is set for a fierce debate over nuclear waste provisions.

The recommendation of $24.6 billion for the DoE includes $661 million for the Yucca Mountain repository ($84 million above FY05), which consists of $310 million for civil nuclear waste disposal and $351 million for military waste. The funds are $10 million above the budget request, for the purpose of moving spent nuclear fuel away from reactor sites to an interim storage facility. The bill also includes $5.5 million for launching a spent fuel reprocessing initiative.

Opponents of the bill argue that the reprocessing plan undercuts non-proliferation policy and that temporary storage would create new regional nuclear waste sites.

Controversially, the interim storage provisions may strengthen the case for the planned Private Fuel Storage (PFS) site in the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation in Utah. The bill’s language calls for the use of DoE sites, but allows that if this is not possible other federal sites, closed military bases or non-federal fuel storage could be considered.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board recently ruled in favour of the PFS site, saying that the likelihood of an F16 jet crash causing radiological release was sufficiently remote. This follows objections from the state of Utah to the site.

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