Plan sounds death knell for Yucca Mountain project

Nevada's congressional delegation praised President Barack Obama for making it clear in his budget outline Thursday that the Energy Department's 20-year, $9 billion effort to study Yucca Mountain and seek a license for a nuclear waste repository there is on its last legs.

"This project is dead, and this announcement is another indicator that our efforts are paying off," Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said in a joint statement released by the delegation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it "was very easy working with the Obama administration" to cut funding for the project to record low levels.

"In the future, people will say that President Obama kept his promise to the people of Nevada," Reid said.

Likewise, Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., referred to the budget language with such words as "the knockout punch," and killing the project "once and for all."

Heller called Obama to "fully eliminate funding for Yucca Mountain by 2011."

The "crucial turning point" as Reid described it, came in Obama's budget language, which states that the "Yucca Mountain program will be scaled back to those costs necessary to answer inquiries from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal."

Asked if that means the Department of Energy will pull the license application it submitted for the commission to review, Energy Secretary Steven Chu's press secretary, Stephanie Mueller, wrote in an e-mail that the fate of the license application "is just one of a set of important issues that need to be resolved thoughtfully, carefully and comprehensively as we develop a responsible long-term approach to nuclear waste management."

"But the bottom line is clear: Yucca Mountain is not an option, and the new administration is starting the process of finding a better solution for management of our nuclear waste."

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at or 702-383-0308.