By Sylvie Dale, Online Editor
WASHINGTON, DC, February 18, 2002 — President George W. Bush has backed up Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham’s choice of Yucca Mountain for use as the nation’s long-term nuclear waste storage site. Yucca Mountain is a site north of Las Vegas, Nev.
If all approvals happen as planned, the site could start storing radioactive waste by 2010.
Approximately 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste is being temporarily stored on the premises of the nation’s 131 nuclear power generating facilities.
The Friday decision was a boon to the nation’s nuclear power generation industry, but Nevada elected officials and environmentalists said they will continue to fight against the nuclear waste being brought to Nevada.
Constellation Energy Group welcomed the approval as another necessary step in an important process. “Used fuel is stored at the highest levels of safety and security at our Calvert Cliffs and Nine Mile Point nuclear power plants, but storage at the plant sites was never intended to take the place of a single, national disposal facility,” commented Christian H. Poindexter, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Constellation Energy Group.
“Consolidating used nuclear fuel at one highly engineered facility at a remote site — where it can be stored and monitored with an extra measure of safety and efficiency — just makes sense,” Poindexter said.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid said by moving forward now, the president had broken promises made in a recent meeting with Reid, Nevada Sen. John Ensign and Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, the Environmental News Service reported.
Reid said the president had promised to wait on further action until he received and reviewed all of the scientific evidence on Yucca Mountain. The president received the final Environmental Impact Statement Thursday night along with Secretary Abraham’s formal letter of recommendation for the site. Reid said one night of review did not allow ample time for Bush to analyze the information before making his statement.
Gov. Guinn said he will exercise his Notice of Disapproval to the U.S. Congress, known as the Governor’s Veto, ENS reported. Congress would then have 90 legislative days to override Guinn’s veto on a simple majority vote.
The state of Nevada has filed one lawsuit against the waste storage site, and state attorneys are preparing to file another legal action challenging the energy secretary’s recommendation.
Also Friday, the Bush administration said Exelon Corp. and Dominion Resources Inc. are studying sites to build new nuclear power plants. The administration is offering three federally-owned sites for the companies to consider, Reuters News Service reported.
The companies are evaluating a Department of Energy laboratory in Idaho, a nuclear weapons plant in South Carolina and a uranium recycling center in Ohio.
Although the utilities will pay most of the cost of the site studies, the government will also help fund them, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said.
To have new plants operating by 2010, the Bush administration’s goal, utility owners would have to order them by the end of 2003.
Exelon owns 17 nuclear generating facilities at 10 plants across the country, including Three Mile Island. Dominion Resources owns nuclear plants in Virginia and Connecticut.