Shelving of Yucca opposed

WASHINGTON -- Two more organizations have lined up to fight the government's proposed shelving of the Yucca Mountain project.

The Prairie Island Indian Community of Red Wing, Minn., filed a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission late Monday to oppose the Department of Energy's request to withdraw a license application for the Nevada nuclear waste storage site.

The tribe lives near the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant, where spent nuclear fuel would remain stored in above-ground canisters until an alternative to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository is found.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a body of state public service boards, also filed similar paperwork with the NRC on Monday.

In its documents, the general counsel for the regulatory utility commissioners, James Bradford Ramsay, wrote dismissal of the project "at this late stage, in the absence of any rational explanation ... is an incredible waste of the billions in ratepayer dollars spent on the licensing proceeding to date."

Four others have filed objections, or plan to file them, to the DOE motion that is being considered by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, an arm of the NRC. The states of Washington and South Carolina have filed objections, along with Aiken, S.C.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, the government affairs arm of the nuclear industry, has indicated it plans to object as well.

In a twist, the state of Nevada plans to support the Department of Energy's motion to withdraw the repository application "with prejudice," a legal status that would prevent it from being filed again at a later date.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, became the latest federal lawmaker to speak out against the closure. Roughly a dozen have criticized the Obama administration's move.

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate's energy committee, said the longer the nation does not have a permanent destination for nuclear waste, taxpayers will pay more than $50 billion in estimated damages to utilities that have sued the government for failing to open a storage site.

"With the withdrawal of the Yucca Mountain license application, we are back to square one and the American taxpayer will continue to pay the cost – without receiving any answers," she said.

Jon Summers, a spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said critics overlook that the government "has been hemorrhaging billions on Yucca for years without actually solving the nuclear waste problem."

Contact Stephens Media Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760