The proposed waste repository at Yucca Mountain is currently sitting in darkness on a ‘standby’ position after financial cuts resulted in the loss of 63 Bechtel SAIC contractors.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) is now running the site on a skeleton staff after its funds were cut by $108 million for this financial year by the US government.

The DoE has indicated it will not now be able to meet the target of 30 June for submitting a repository application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), although it hopes to make the application later in the year.

A spokesman for the project said: “The administration requested $495 million for the current financial year but was given $386.5 million, which is a difference of $108 million. That’s going to translate into quite a number of lay-offs, which have already started.

“The director of the programme has indicated that we are not sure we will make the 30 June deadline for submitting the application to the NRC. But we hope to submit it some time this year.

“This is a money issue right now and we are dealing with it and going through the impacts.”

He continued: “One of the impacts is that the site is in a standby situation. We are not running the tours and have had to lay off 63 people at the site. The contractor will no longer be at the site. DoE will run it with a significantly reduced workforce.

“Yucca is not completely closed, from time to time people will go into the tunnel but right now the electricity is off in the tunnel; there are no lights and the site is fenced off.”

If the Yucca application is delayed further it could call the whole repository into question, because any incoming democrat president would be likely to oppose the repository.

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