A House spending panel is directing the Energy Department to start sending nuclear waste to an interim storage site next year, a shift from the Bush administration's focus on the troubled Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada.
WASHINGTON A House spending panel is directing the Energy Department to start sending nuclear waste to an interim storage site next year, a shift from the Bush administration's focus on the troubled Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada.
Rep. David Hobson, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water, included $10 million for the effort in a spending bill the subcommittee passed on Thursday.
The legislation, approved by voice vote, directs the department to select one or more aboveground sites that will be ready in 2006 to accept some of the thousands of tons of commercial reactor fuel and defense waste now accumulating in 39 states.
Hobson said he remains committed to Yucca Mountain, the planned underground dump for the nation's nuclear waste, but that delays to the project have made interim storage necessary. The bill does not specify a storage site.
Yucca Mountain has endured a string of problems. The most recent concerned allegations that government workers on the project falsified data. Also, the department recently abandoned a 2010 completion date and did not set a new one.
The government is facing billions of dollars in potential liability from nuclear utilities because it promised to start accepting their waste in 1998, but failed to make good.
"I'm trying to bridge that gap between the time that Yucca Mountain opens," Hobson, R-Ohio, told reporters after the subcommittee vote.
"We're incurring a lot of litigation when we don't get the spent fuel rods out from these power plants like we said we were going to do," he said. "This way we could eliminate that, cut down on the security problems they have, and put them into some aboveground sites."
Hobson's bill still grants President Bush's 2006 spending request for Yucca Mountain. Bush proposed $651 million in his budget plan released in February; Hobson's subcommittee would fund the project at $661 million, with the additional money going for the interim storage plan.
An Energy Department spokeswoman said the department remains focused on Yucca Mountain, which was approved by Congress in 2002 to store 77,000 tons of nuclear waste beneath the desert 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
"We are reviewing the legislation, but obviously we are continuing to work toward a permanent geologic repository at Yucca Mountain," Anne Womack Kolton said.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., favors legislation to permanently leave nuclear waste at the reactor sites where it now sits.
Source: Associated Press