Ward Sproat, shown in the Las Vegas Review-Journal photo at the left, is director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, and announced Tuesday that Yucca Mountain in Nevada is still a long way from receiving any spent nuclear fuel. Sproat told Nevada’s Legislative Committee on High-Level Nuclear Waste, that lack of funding will result in significant worker layoffs at the facility. He is quoted as saying, “They’re going to come in waves”.
Podcast, if you’d rather listen: yucca-layoffs.mp3
The program has 2,400 full-time employees, a number that will shrink, as Sproat put it, “by the hundreds.” He is quoted as saying, “at least 500 people would be removed from the program in the next several months, the majority in Nevada, some in New Mexico from Sandia (National) Labs.”
On top of that, Sproat doubts a licensing application will be submitted this summer as previously anticipated. It was hoped the facility would be licensed and operational by 2017, but this latest news casts serious doubt on those plans.
What does this mean for the nation’s high-level waste repository? Sproat says the first deliveries of 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel probably won’t arrive at the facility in 2017. As a matter of fact, he isn’t certain the facility will even be licensed for some time to come.
The reason for the budget crunch apparently lies with Congress, who cut $108 million in funding from the 2008 budget. The Bush administration had asked for $494.5 million, and Congress responded with $386.5 million.
Sproat says the tunnel’s ventilation system was shut down in December to save on what he termed “substantial” electrical bills. It cost $3 million last year to keep the lights on, provide water and maintenance at the site.
Also on the chopping block, at least for the time being, is construction of a rail line across east-central Nevada to deliver the spent fuel. Sproat said there’ll be no rail delivery system in place by 2016 as planned.
Waste, according to Sproat, will not arrive at Yucca Mountain by 2017.
The state, which has been fighting the project for years, has a list of more than 25 concerns about the project. Nevada officials claim the Department of Energy’s repository design is only about 40% complete, and the agency has failed to fully address concerns about terrorism and sabotage in the transport of high-level nuclear waste products across the nation.
Earlier concerns about Yucca Mountain have clouded the issue even more, primarily discovery of an earthquake fault that runs directly beneath one of the areas designated for storage.
So, it looks like we’ll continue to pile up tons of high-level nuclear waste with no place to go but in deep-water pools and huge casks basking in the sunlight.
If you want a really good read on Yucca Mountain, I recommend the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s archive, where you’ll find this article, and a list of stories going back five years. You’ll have plenty of material to research.
Well, once again, here we are folks, piling up high-level, dangerously radioactive nuclear waste by the ton, and no place to go but in populated areas of not only our country, but around the world.
For the bleeding hearts who can’t wait to put another nuclear reactor on line, I can only wish you’d put more energy into finding a solution for waste management, and less into contributing to the problem.
Or, do you really think there is a problem with high-level nuclear waste, keeping in mind the ever-present “Oops Factor” that bedevils our every enterprise? I’d like to know. Change my mind.