The following is an early release of a story that's scheduled to run in the Monday, January 21 edition of Nuclear Energy Overview, NEI's members only publication. It was written by my NEI colleague, Rich Bickers:
The Energy Department’s director of radioactive waste management last week told Nevada legislators and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board that a 2008 license application for the Yucca Mountain repository is still possible, even though the agency continues to evaluate the impact of a more than $100 million reduction in the repository program’s 2008 budget.
The projected 2017 opening date for the repository, however, is no longer achievable, Ward Sproat, director of DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, told the Nevada State Legislative Committee and the review board at meetings last week in Nevada. Sproat said DOE expects to decide on a new projected opening date sometime this spring.
Sproat said that the license application process was still on schedule as of Jan. 1 and that, although the scheduled June submittal is uncertain, he is “cautiously optimistic” that a license application can be submitted this year. The agency in December completed the repository and surface facility design work necessary for completion of the license application, he said. But Sproat said he cannot be certain of a submittal this year until the agency completes an evaluation currently under way to determine the effects of the budget cut.
“I cannot stand behind the June ’08 date until the evaluation is done,” he said.
The department also is developing a “layman’s version” of the Yucca Mountain application to help the public better understand the process, Sproat said. DOE will issue the public-friendly version when it submits the license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Construction on the Nevada rail lines that will serve Yucca Mountain—scheduled to start in October 2009—will be delayed at least two years as a result of the existing funding shortfall.
During the remainder of the daylong review board meeting, DOE scientists described the project’s latest analytical results, previewing some of the work that will make up the license application.
“It is encouraging to see the extent to which the scientific and technical effort has progressed,” said Rod McCullum, NEI’s director for the Yucca Mountain project. “Industry now expects the department to focus its resources and finish compiling this work into a high-quality license application. And submitting that application to the NRC so that the licensing process—in which the ultimate safety of the repository can be objectively and rigorously assessed—can begin.”