LAS VEGAS (AP) - Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the Obama
administration remains opposed to the planned nuclear waste
repository at Yucca Mountain, but stopped short of committing to
kill the license application for the site.
"The position is Yucca Mountain is not going forward, that's
the president's position," Chu told the Las Vegas Sun on Thursday.
"But it's a very complicated issue because we still have to do
things that allow that we can use nuclear as part of our energy
The department submitted an application for a permit to build
and operate Yucca Mountain to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
earlier last year. The commission has four years to act on the
Opponents of the repository 90 miles outside Las Vegas are
pushing officials to pull the application. They fear that if the
application is approved, a future presidential administration could
open the site without undergoing the lengthy application process.
President Barack Obama promised to pull the application while
campaigning last year, but withdrawing the application may be
easier said than done.
The building of a repository at Yucca Mountain in required by
the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. As long as the law remains in effect,
the administration is open to potential legal action if it abruptly
stops the process without an alternative.
Utility companies that operate nuclear power plants across the
nation have sued the government for failing to open Yucca Mountain
by the promised 1998 start date. The waste is piling up at their
Energy Department spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said Thursday
that "charting a path forward on alternatives to Yucca Mountain is
a key priority of Secretary Chu as he begins his tenure at the
Department of Energy. Under an Obama administration, no license
application will result in a nuclear waste storage site at Yucca
Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,
said the senator wants the license application pulled, "but we
also realize there's some groundwork that needs to be completed
before you pull the license application."