Nuclear waste dump delays detailed |

Nuclear waste dump delays detailed

WASHINGTON (AP) – A long-delayed nuclear waste dump in Nevada that has cost $9 billion so far is years away from opening, the project’s director told frustrated lawmakers Wednesday, and will be at capacity from radioactive waste now accumulating.

The Energy Department also plans to determine the need for a second site for an underground dump, said Paul Golan, acting director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.

Department officials had most recently set 2012 as the projected opening for the first nuclear waste dump, at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, but have backed off that goal. Golan would only say Wednesday, “We should be able to open it next decade.” The original target was 1998.

“It’s obvious the 2012 date is now out the window,” said Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Appropriations’ energy subcommittee.

Some 55,000 tons of waste are collecting at commercial reactor sites in 39 states and high-level waste is being stored at defense sites, too. Yucca Mountain is supposed to hold 77,000 tons of radioactive waste.

Among Yucca Mountain’s problems are a federal court’s rejection of the government’s original radiation safety standards for the dump; a controversy over fabricated quality assurance data; and political opposition from home-state lawmakers, including Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate’s top Democrat.