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Nuclear waste site evaluations to restart over Reid’s objections

- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2013

Saying it was responding to an order from the courts, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday it has resumed staff work on the feasibility of the long-stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, despite the fierce opposition of Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and President Obama to the Yucca site.

The site, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was proposed as the central site to dispose of the nation's nuclear waste stockpiles, but has been long been blocked by Mr. Reid, the senior senator from Nevada, and politicians and state officials of both parties from the Silver State.

But a recent U.S. Court of Appeals ruling sided with advocates for the plan, and ordered the agency to resume its safety evaluations and other tests that would precede construction of a waste repository.

"The commission reached this decision after obtaining views from numerous parties involved in the licensing process as to how it should proceed," NRC spokesman Dave McIntyre said in a department blog post Monday.

The NRC has also requested that the Energy Department complete an environmental impact statement for the proposed site.

As of Sept. 30, NRC had set aside $11 million for reviews of the site, agency documents show, but little work had been done for the past three years.

Mr. Reid has long been an critic of the plan, and a statement on his website called the idea "flawed."

"The proposal to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain threatened the health and safety of Nevadans and people across our nation," the statement said. "Yucca Mountain, which is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is simply not a safe or secure site to store nuclear waste for any period of time."

His opposition have been backed up by Mr. Obama with a suggestion that other alternatives might be better for storing the waste.

The NRC move comes just days after U.S. Department of Energy officials informed Nevada residents of plans to truck radioactive material from a World War II-era plant in Tennessee to the state for burial. The Associated Press reported last week that department officials told residents at a town hall meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas that the state doesn't have authority to prevent shipments of uranium waste from Oak Ridge, Tenn., to the Nevada National Security Site north of Las Vegas.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who protested the waste transport and burial plan when it became public last summer, issued a statement Thursday calling it premature to say whether the state will seek a federal court order to block the shipments, according to the AP report.

A truck was loaded at Oak Ridge in June, and officials told residents in Las Vegas they want to begin shipments under armed guard in January, before the trip certification expires. Up to 100 shipments would follow before 2017. Shipping times and routes would be kept secret. The delay is costing $2.5 million a month, department spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy told the news agency.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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