Margaret Chu, director of the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, has admitted that a licence application for the Yucca Mountain repository will not be submitted as planned in December.
Chu said a short delay was necessary for a DoE review of a revised draft repository application submitted by contractor Bechtel. DoE spokesman Joe Davis said that the 31 December date was one that the DoE "had hoped to make, but will not." He added: "We don't believe it will be an extended delay."
Currently the project faces problems with its Licensing Support Network (LSN), an information system meant to hold the millions of pages of documents that accompany the licence application. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) licensing board revoked the DoE's own certification of the system and it now appears that official certification will not come until spring 2005. The LSN must be certified at least six months before the NRC will accept the full Yucca Mountain licence application, which it will take the NRC at least three years to review.
In July the US Federal Appeals Court found that the 10,000 year compliance standard upon which the Yucca Mountain licence will be based, violates recommendations by the US National Academy of Sciences and declared it invalid. The project is also having trouble gaining the funding required for its push towards licence application: funds of $577 million for fiscal year 2005 were recently earmarked in an energy water appropriations bill that is due to be passed before the legislative houses adjourn for the year. The amount falls well below the $880 million officials say is required.