Senate Bill Could Mean More Nuke Waste

Yucca Mountain
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Incentives for renewable energy production approved in a Senate energy bill could bode well for Nevada, but a push for developing more nuclear power mean more waste for a national nuclear dump in the state.

The energy bill was identical to one that died last year in a conference committee. The new bill, passed by the House in April, now heads again to conference committee in September.

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., voted in favor of the bill passed late Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Many of the bill's elements hang in the balance, since Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of Senate Energy and Natural Resources, has vowed to put controversial provisions into the conference report.

For renewable energy, the bill included Reid's language that provides tax credits for renewable resources such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power. Reid said the language would create jobs in the states while providing a"steady, reliable energy supply."

"We have limitless renewable resources in Nevada, and these tax incentives will make Nevada the proving ground of renewable energy,"Reid said.

Approving last year's bill also resurrected a provision that could mandate that electricity suppliers generate 10 percent of power from renewable resources by 2020.

Meanwhile, the bill excluded federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power reactors, but reauthorizes the Price-Anderson Act, a federal insurance programs for nuclear reactors, until 2012 and funds some nuclear research and development programs.

A new nuclear reactor has not been built for decades and the legislation did not spell out what would happen to spent fuel produced by the new facilities, should they be built.

Congress last year approved Energy Department plans to put a federal nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It would hold 77,000 metric tons of spent fuel.

About 46,000 tons of waste sit now sits in storage at commercial nuclear power plants and Energy Department facilities around the country.

The department anticipates submitting a license to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2004. The commission has three years, and up to an additional 12 months with congressional approval, to determine if it can authorize construction.

If all goes according to department plans, Yucca Mountain would begin accepting waste shipments in 2010.

But the country's 103 reactors will still produce about 2,000 tons of waste per year.