Margaret Chu, director of the US Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, and head of the Yucca Mountain project, has resigned. The Department of Energy has reported that the resignation would be effective from about 25 February.
“I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to serve the President and to lead a programme of such national and international importance,” said Chu, “I am proud to have been a part of this administration and of making critical progress with Yucca Mountain.”
Since 6 March 2002, Chu had provided advice on high-level waste (HLW) management to President George Bush and energy secretaries Spencer Abraham and, latterly, Sam Bodman. The most important part of her role was to guide the project to build a permanent HLW store beneath Yucca Mountain in the state of Nevada.
Chu previously served as director of nuclear waste management at the DoE’s Sandia National Laboratories. She also served as Sandia manager for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant activities. She received her bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Minnesota. She said her planned return to her home in New Mexico was because of personal circumstances.
Any implications for the Yucca Mountain project are unclear. There have already been innumerable delays: The project’s licence application was due to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2004, but many think December 2005 is more likely, and the official opening date of 2010 is now all but abandoned – Chu herself has said it will probably slip to 2012.
Allen Benson, a DoE spokesman, said that the projected life sycle cost of Yucca is $60 billion.