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White House’s 2018 Budget Provides for Restarting Licensing of Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Disposal

March 16, 2017 (EIRNS)—Yucca Mountain, located in the state of Nevada, had hit a roadblock last year when President Obama and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, also from Nevada, mothballed the idea of using it as a nuclear waste disposal center. According to a news item in Reuters today, the White House’s 2018 budget plan for the U.S. Department of Energy has revived the idea and allocated $120 million to restart licensing of the project.

"The U.S. has close to 75,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste, spent reactor fuel and the byproducts of processing it that now sit in pools or dry casks at nuclear power plants, facilities never intended for long-term storage. The risk of leaks is high. Because the stuff stays radioactive for millennia, the safest course of action is supposed to be entombed in rock like at Yucca Mountain, where it can remain inaccessible to future humans,"

Sarah Zhang of Wired reported last July. Reuters pointed out that the move by President Donald Trump to consider the site will be a solution to extending the lives of existing U.S. nuclear power plants, that have been hobbled by a lack of places to get rid of their spent nuclear fuel.

Last December, in an open letter written by Environmental Progress to President-Elect Donald Trump and Governor Rick Perry, American Nuclear Society (ANS) and 38 other nuclear professionals and organizations urged both leaders to take strong action to save and grow America’s nuclear energy sector. The signatories, evoking President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1953 Atoms for Peace initiative, urged

"developing and exporting of U.S.-made nuclear reactors by expanding the financing through the Export-Import Bank, World Bank and other development agencies."

On March 13, World Nuclear News (WNN) carried an appeal by the U.S.NIC, a business consortium that advocates for new nuclear and global engagement of the U.S. nuclear supply chain. The group said:

"It is crystal clear that decisive, swift and tangible action is needed to re-establish a comprehensive program to address the federal government’s statutory and contractual obligations for disposition of growing inventories of [used] nuclear fuel and high-level waste—as well as to provide a path forward for the backend of the fuel cycle for currently operating reactors and pave the way for new nuclear energy plants required for U.S. energy independence, jobs, exports, made-in-America clean energy leadership and national security,"

WNN reported.