From: Erica Werner, Associated Press
Published September 28, 2006 12:00 AM

Senator Seeks to Speed Nuclear Waste Shipments to Yucca Mountain

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee chairman said Wednesday he wants to start shipping nuclear waste to Nevada's Yucca Mountain in 2010, seven years ahead of the Bush administration's schedule.

A bill by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., would mandate construction of a surface storage facility at the site that could hold nuclear waste until the long-delayed underground dump is ready -- not until 2017, at earliest, according to the current schedule.

The delays are costing the public because the Energy Department was obligated to start accepting waste from nuclear utilities beginning in 1998. More than 50,000 tons of the material is waiting at commercial reactors around the country.

Domenici's bill would seek to reduce that multibillion-dollar liability by creating an aboveground facility that could receive high-level waste from the Defense Department starting in 2010 and spent fuel from civilian reactors the next year.

The aboveground storage would be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission separately from the underground dump, which also still needs a license.

"Our nation needs nuclear waste and it will be managed safely both for current and future reactors," said Domenici, who heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

His is the latest proposal aimed at making up for delays at Yucca Mountain, whose problems include lawsuits and a lack of money. The dump site is about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Domenici also wants to create interim storage facilities at various federal sites. He envisions his plans working in coordination with an administration proposal to revive nuclear fuel reprocessing, which could reduce the amount of waste needing to be stored.

With Congress in its final legislative week, Domenici said he does not expect his plan to advance this year.

Source: Associated Press

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