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DOE Says No Chance for Yucca Atomic Waste Site DOE Says No Chance for Yucca Atomic Waste Site DOE Says No Chance for Yucca Atomic Waste Site DOE Says No Chance for Yu...

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Policy / ENERGY

DOE Says No Chance for Yucca Atomic Waste Site

June 21, 2011

This article originally appeared in Global Security Newswire, produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group whose mission is preventing the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

A top U.S. Energy Department official on Monday said there is no chance of reviving a plan to build a long-term underground atomic-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Reuters reported.

"We do not see Yucca Mountain as a solution here," Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said during an international conference in Vienna on nuclear safety. "It is time to turn the page and try to find a better set of solutions."

Republican lawmakers and a number of Democrats have strongly protested the Obama administration's 2010 decision to request withdrawal of a license application for Yucca Mountain from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The waste site had faced considerable opposition from Nevada politicians and residents.

 

"I think any policy -- the success of which can only be measured over many decades -- can only succeed with strong bipartisan support and strong support from the communities affected," Poneman said.

"It was equally clear that Yucca Mountain was not going to have that kind of support," he said.

In June, GOP legislators said that the commission determined that Yucca Mountain was a reasonable nuclear-waste storage site, even while the administration questioned its safety.

The White House has directed a blue-ribbon task force to explore alternatives for storing U.S. civilian nuclear waste. Waste from the 104 atomic reactors in the United States is being held in temporary storage conditions that some have criticized as vulnerable to attack.

Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano in Vienna urged nations to analyze safety threats to their atomic reactors within the next year and a half to ensure that they would not be undone by natural disasters similar to the earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March.

Amano also offered a proposal for enhanced safety inspections, or peer assessments, on reactors across the planet that would be overseen by the Vienna-based body. That suggestion could face opposition from governments that prefer safety issues to remain under their own purview.

Poneman said that Washington was a "strong supporter" of the peer-assessment suggestion. "We have called on the IAEA many times to provide additional oversight," he said.

"I think the question that is going to be presented is whether the mandate of the IAEA is going to run to that additional level," the Energy Department official said.

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