Abraham Admits Yucca Mountain Will Not Contain All Waste

Russian Nuclear Waste Storage Complaint Upheld

* Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham admitted recently that the proposed Yucca Mountain waste repository in Nevada will not be able to contain all existing and future high-level nuclear waste, and may have to be expanded. The admission comes after Nevada's Senators questioned Abraham at a Congressional hearing regarding the site's capacity. Abraham acknowledged that thousands of tons of waste would still be stored around the country in temporary facilities.

Yucca Mountain is currently expected to dispose of 77,000 tons of nuclear waste. However, there is currently about 45,000 tons of waste stored around the country and another 20,000 tons is expected to be produced before Yucca Mountain is to open in 2010. Therefore, approximately 65,000 tons of waste would be earmarked for Yucca Mountain before the facility was even operational. The nation's nuclear power industry creates about 2,000 tons of high-level waste every year. At that rate, Yucca Mountain would reach capacity by 2016, a mere six years after opening.

Nevada Senators John Ensign and Harry Reid argue that the excess waste undermines one of the key arguments that the Bush administration makes in favor of Yucca Mountain. Bush claims that a central waste repository, such as Yucca Mountain, is necessary to national security. After the hearing, Abraham opened the possibility that Yucca Mountain would have to be expanded. It is unclear whether Abraham's tentative plans for expansion would have any effect on legal challenges from Nevada or the licensing of Yucca Mountain.

Nevada recently vetoed Bush's recommendation of Yucca Mountain. Bush's recommendation can be reversed by a simple majority of both houses. The House overrode the veto, but the Senate has until June 26th to vote on the matter.

Please see CCNS's new Yucca Mountain News, Information and Resource Page for news stories, links to Yucca Mountain activist organizations, and things you can do to help stop the Yucca Mountain Project.

Russian Nuclear Waste Storage Complaint Upheld
Russian environmentalists scored a victory in February when the Russian Supreme Court upheld a complaint filed by citizens from the Chelyabinsk region of the Urals Mountains, Greenpeace and the Movement for Nuclear Safety. The complaint concerned a governmental decree that was issued in 1998 that allowed storage of spent nuclear fuel from the Hungarian Paks nuclear power plant while being reprocessed in Russia. The decree violated Russian legislation that prohibited importation of nuclear materials for storage in Russia. Radioactive waste is to be returned to the country of its origin following reprocessing.

However, waste generated from reprocessing the Hungarian spent nuclear fuel remained at the Mayak reprocessing plant in Russia. Although according to the law, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2002, the waste was to return to Hungary after reprocessing, but due to the war in the Balkans, train routes were complicated and the waste remained at Mayak.

Although the decree, which allowed the waste to remain in Russia, was never formally released, activists found it accidentally while researching another suit. Andrei Talevlin, who is part of a Young Lawyers Association in Chelyabinsk, represented the groups. The Russian Supreme Court ruled that the government had violated the constitutional rights of the Chelyabinsk region inhabitants, including the rights to health protection, a clean environment and reliable information about these issues.

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