The White House is opposing legislation which would lead to a temporary site for spent fuel being built in Nevada. The site, at the Navada Test Range, would act as an interim facility until the permanent repository at Yucca Mountain, Navada, is approved and built. Yucca Mountain is expected to accept its first waste around 2010.
Lake Barrett, acting head of civilian radioactive waste management at the DOE, argues that building a temporary store would divert resources from Yucca Mountain.
“Enactment of the bill could result in a funding gap of substantially over $1 billion,” he said.
Barrett will recommend to President Clinton that he veto the bill, as will energy secretary Bill Richardson. Republicans in Congress, US nuclear utilities and US States have charged the DOE with collecting $15 billion for storing spent fuel, but not having spent the money on achieving that objective. Currently, about 30 000 tons of spent fuel is being stored on site at 75 nuclear power plants across the country.
Last year the US Supreme Court upheld an appeal court ruling which refused to force the DOE to start taking the waste, despite the 1983 Nuclear Waste Policy Act which obligated the DOE to take responsibility for the waste from 31 January 1998 (See NEI Dec 98, p2). However it did allow utilities to demand compansation for storage costs.
“We have to make sure utility ratepayers who have deposited billions into the Nuclear Waste Fund get what they paid for, timely disposal of the spent reactor fuel,” said Virginian Republican and House Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley.