- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham yesterday said he will recommend the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada for the nation's only nuclear-waste repository.
"The science behind this project is sound, and the site is technically suitable for this purpose," Mr. Abraham said. "There are compelling national interests that require us to complete the siting process and move forward with the development of a repository, as Congress mandated almost 20 years ago."
Mr. Abraham formally notified Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn that he will recommend that President Bush approve the site, the first of many hurdles and timelines the contentious project faces. The law requires the energy secretary to give 30 days' notice to the governor of Nevada before making the formal recommendation to Mr. Bush.
If Mr. Bush considers Yucca Mountain a suitable location for a repository, he then will recommend the site to Congress.
However, Nevada is expected to reject the proposal and has 60 days to do so after the president makes his recommendation. That shifts the decision to Congress, which can override Nevada's veto with a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate. The timetable could put the measure in front of Congress before the August recess, an Energy Department spokesman said.
A spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said the measure "will move expeditiously" through the House. Democrats control the Senate, but the measure can be brought up for a vote by any senator. Congress has 90 days in consecutive session to override any Nevada veto.
Electric utility customers have paid a tax since 1983 to build the facility "with little to show for it," Mr. Hastert said.
The target date for opening Yucca Mountain 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas is 2010. The facility will house spent fuel from nuclear power plants, which provide electricity.
The opening of the facility has been blocked by "left-wing political grandstanding" and has "prevented the government from moving forward on a centralized, safe storage location for nuclear waste sooner than today," Mr. Hastert said.
"Secretary Abraham's sound decision will finally enable us to take a necessary step forward and get something back on the billions of dollars invested over the years for our families, our environment and the future use of a safe and viable energy source," Mr. Hastert said.
In light of increased homeland security, Mr. Hastert said, it is "common sense" to store nuclear waste in the deep geological desert cavern. Nuclear waste is being temporarily stored where it is manufactured, at more than 100 power plants scattered across the United States.
Combined, the nuclear waste would fill a football field 10 feet deep, said Pete Jeffries, Mr. Hastert's spokesman.
Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat and assistant majority leader, is the leading critic of the Yucca Mountain project.
Mr. Reid said the site is "unsuitable," the recommendation "premature" and yesterday's decision by the Department of Energy "hasty and dangerous."
Mr. Reid urged Mr. Bush to "cut through the bureaucratic pseudoscience, see this project for the sham that it is and do the right thing for America and Nevada by changing course."
"DOE has wasted $8 billion on Yucca Mountain and has virtually nothing to show for it. Now they want taxpayers to spend another $50 billion to develop a dump they can't prove to be safe," Mr. Reid said.
The announcement was praised by the bipartisan Yucca Mountain Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Former Republican Gov. John Sununu of New Hampshire and former Democratic Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, who are co-chairmen of the initiative, issued a joint statement calling the action "an appropriate response to issues emanating in light of September 11."
"Today's action by the secretary triggers a decisive step forward towards meeting our generation's responsibility for the stewardship of used nuclear fuel and defense waste," the statement said.

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