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US Needs a Much Bigger Nuclear Waste Dump

DOE calls for bigger nuclear waste dump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration said Tuesday there are no technology constraints to a major expansion of the proposed nuclear waste site in Nevada, calling for possibly tripling the amount of highly radioactive used reactor fuel that could be stored there in manmade underground caverns.

In a report to Congress, the Energy Department asked that the current capacity limit of 77,000 tons of waste — imposed by Congress in 1987 — be removed to accommodate all of the waste expected to be generated at commercial power plants, many of which are likely to operate for another four decades or more.

In a separate report, the department dismissed suggestions that reactor waste be kept at temporary storage sites at government facilities, an option that President-elect Barack Obama has suggested as a possible alternative to the planned Nevada site, Yucca Mountain, located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The department said the government is prohibited by law to accept the reactor waste at federal facilities or other sites since a 1982 law specifically singled out Yucca Mountain as the only future waste repository.

“In order to undertake interim storage in a timely manner, legislation would be needed,” the Energy Department report said.

But the Yucca Mountain repository, with its statutory capacity limit, is nowhere near adequate for handling all the material expected to be generated by the country’s 104 commercial reactors before they are shut down, the department said.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said unless Congress removes the 77,000-ton limit on Yucca Mountain lawmakers will have to approve a search for a second repository. As many as nine potential waste sites had been looked at before Congress in 1987 declared that only the Nevada site should be considered. More here…

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