Reid Says Senate Bill to Revive Yucca Project Going Nowhere

Senate leader Harry Reid said a Senate bill to revive plans for opening a national radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain has no chance of passage.

"It is going nowhere," Reid said Thursday of the measure introduced by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and backed by six other Republican senators.

As majority leader, Reid, D-Nev., has had the last word on nuclear waste bills.

Inhofe said his bill aims to move the stalled project forward. Managers are trying to rework the program, which is years behind schedule, in the face of budget cuts and personnel layoffs.

"If you can't build a repository in the middle of a mountain in the middle of a desert, where should it be?" Inhofe said.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., accused the bill sponsors of "trying to fast-forward a project that should be stopped."

The bill would change the government's strategy for entombing the nation's most highly radioactive nuclear waste at the Yucca site, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

It would let the Energy Department build the underground repository and begin storing waste after proving to regulators it could be operated safely for 300 years. Every 50 years during that period, DOE would seek license amendments to incorporate new research and technology.

At 300 years, the government would be required to show whether the repository could meet radiation standards to ensure the waste can remain shielded for as long as 1 million years. If so, the repository would be sealed.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is working on a new
radiation standard based on a much longer period. A federal appeals
court in 2004 threw out a 10,000-year standard in favor of a National Academy of Sciences panel recommendation that the EPA account for radiation releases at the site for up to 1 million years.

Energy Department officials said they were reviewing the bill.

Bob Loux, director of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, said
the bill was a return to a "phased licensing" idea that was previously rejected by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

He called the bill "more of a political document than a serious piece of legislation."

Most Nevada officials oppose the Yucca project, and favor storing nuclear waste at power plants until another solution is found.

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal,

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-25-08 1355EST

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