Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain, the Nevada-based, scientifically flawed and politically unjust proposed high-level radioactive waste repository has now been canceled. However, pro-nuclear forces in Congress have not abandoned Yucca and funding is still allocated to the project.



Yucca Mountain: End of the Road?

A graphic summarizing major milestones for and against the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump in Nevada. It was published in the Las Vegas Review Journal on Feb. 8, 2010 -- a week after Obama administration Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced he would move to withdraw the application to construct and operate the Yucca dump from the NRC licensing proceeding, and would zero out the Yucca dump's budget in Fiscal Year 2011.  An even more comprehensive and detailed timeline of the Yucca Mountain issue was later (June 20, 2010) posted at the Las Vegas Review Journal's website (see the left hand side bar).


Yucca dump licensing proceeding limps one step forward

Or should we say backward? The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has published the first of five volumes of its "Safety Evaluation Report" (SER) on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) application for a construction and operating license for the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Western Shoshone Indian lands at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Although NRC staff has given DOE's work a "passing grade," it should be borne in mind that NRC staff was busted by its own Inspector General in Sept. 2007 for plagiarizing nuclear utility "safety analyses," cutting and pasting them into NRC staff "safety evaluations" as part of rubberstamping 20 year license extensions at old reactors. This latest NRC Yucca licensing action comes despite DOE Secretary Steven Chu moving last March to withdraw its license application "with prejudice" (that is, forevermore, with no option to re-submit it), following President Barack Obama's clearcut and wise policy decision, that Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for radioactive waste disposal. But, incredibly, an NRC "Atomic Safety (sic) Licensing Board" (ASLB) then rejected DOE's motion to withdraw in late June, sending the matter to the five member Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself for review, where it now sits, awaiting a ruling. Regardless of the fact that DOE's budget for the Yucca Mountain dump project is a big fat ZERO for Fiscal Year 2011, thanks to the efforts of President Obama, Energy Secretary Chu, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it is almost certain that whichever side loses at the NRC, it will appeal to the federal courts. The nuclear power industry's strategy is to draw out the Yucca dump's "last throes" long enough, in hopes that Sen. Reid loses his re-election in November, 2010, and President Obama his re-election in November, 2012. Then the nuclear power industry, its many friends in Congress, and presumably its new ally in the White House could move to "revive" the zombie that is the Yucca dump.  A timeline of the Yucca Mountain issue is posted at the Las Vegas Review Journal's website (see the left hand side bar).


Attempt to restore funding for Yucca dump rebuffed by Senate Appropriators

Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) effort to appropriate $200 million to the Yucca Mountain, Nevada repository for high-level radioactive waste, despite President Obama, Energy Secretary Chu, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s opposition to the dumpsite was voted against by every other Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as one Republican.

Her amendment failed by a 16 to 13 vote against on the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday.

Recently, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing board rejected the Dept. of Energy's motion to withdraw its license application for the Yucca dump. The NRC Commissioners will soon review the licensing board's ruling, and vote to uphold or overturn it. Whichever side loses that Commission review will almost certainly appeal the decision to the federal courts.

The Obama administration requested that the Yucca Mountain Project's budget be zeroed out for Fiscal Year 2011, a request that will be carried out, if today's Senate Appropriations Committee FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill is enacted as is.

The Obama administration established a "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future" to determine a Plan B, now that Yucca has been cancelled. Unfortunately, however -- as the ironic name implies -- many on the Commission, including co-chair Brent Scowcroft, seem more focused on expanding atomic energy than on solving the radioactive waste crisis


NRC licensing board ruling keeps Yucca "illusion of a solution" alive, for now

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has ruled that the U.S. Department of Energy cannot withdraw its application for a construction and operating license at the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada national repository for high-level radioactive waste. The board ruled "Unless Congress directs otherwise, D.O.E. may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process." The ruling contradicts President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu's policy decision that Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for radioactive waste disposal. In February, Chu moved to withdraw the license application from the NRC proceeding, and also zeroed out DOE's budget request for the Yucca Mountain Project for Fiscal Year 2011. The five NRC Commissioners may now review the licensing board's ruling, and either uphold or reverse it. Please phone the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111, email it via its webform (, or send a handwritten letter via fax (202-456-2461) or post (The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500). Thank President Obama for cancelling the Yucca Mountain dumpsite. Urge him to stand strong and make sure the dump is dead. For more information on the geologic unsuitability of Yucca Mountain, as well as the environmental injustice of targeting sacred Western Shoshone Indian treaty land in Nevada for radioactive waste dumping, see Beyond Nuclear's Yucca website section, as well as NIRS's Yucca website section. A vast "repository" of information about the Yucca Mountain dump, and the struggle to stop it, can also be found at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's website. Incredibly, despite them having missed the deadline by several years to apply to become parties in the Yucca licensing proceeding, the ASLB ruling has also allowed several pro-dump parties, such as the States of Washington and South Carolina, to now join the proceeding as intervening parties opposing DOE's license application withdrawal.


ANA awards Yucca watchdogs certificates of honor

On March 16 during its "DC Days" award ceremony, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (of which Beyond Nuclear is a member group) presented certificates of honor to Steve Frishman and Judy Treichel for their more than quarter century of grassroots leadership against the now-cancelled Yucca Mountain dumpsite in Nevada. Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, had the privilege of introducing Judy and Steve. Judy, founder and executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, was honored "For her steadfast leadership in Nevada and across the country working with community organizations to raise transportation and other concerns as part of an effective campaign to stop the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Project." Judy's acceptance speech was marked by her characteristic sense of humor. Steve Frishman, who long served at the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, was honored "For his expertise in exposing technical and legal problems that demonstrated the inadequacies of the proposed site as part of an effective campaign to stop the Yucca Mountain Project." In his acceptance speech, Steve celebrated "the value of persistence in a just cause, and the value of friends who shared theirs with us."