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Future Unclear For Yucca Mountain

by Jeff Johnson
October 24, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 43

Stakeholders have little consensus and much uncertainty about possible uses of the now-defunct Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository site, says a Government Accountability Office report (GAO-11-847) released last week. More than a year ago, the Obama Administration decided to drop further construction at the $15 billion underground radioactive waste repository, leaving two large tunnels in place—one 5 miles long and 25 feet in diameter and a branch about 2 miles long. GAO surveyed interest among stakeholders and found about 30 proposed alternatives for future use at the site. The office pared those to five broad areas of use for the site: nuclear-related uses, such as waste reprocessing; defense work; data storage and other information technology functions; renewable energy and other energy R&D; and geological or mining research. GAO notes many hurdles, however, in moving forward in any of the areas. These include the repository’s location on federal land adjacent to two highly secure federal sites, conflicting claims to mineral rights, conflicts in control of the site among three federal agencies, and potential litigation over the Administration’s decision to withdraw the site as a repository.


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