State designated to aid Yucca archiving effort

Keeping 80 million pages of documents on the Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain project preserved and accessible was the challenge faced Friday by a three-judge licensing panel of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Thomas Moore, chairman of the commission's Construction Authorization Board, ordered parties that rely on the massive archive, called the "Licensing Support Network," to report on how to do so by June 18.

At what Moore said was the board's last meeting in Las Vegas, he designated the state of Nevada to lead the effort in consolidating suggestions into a document that spells out how 23 years of DOE research on the Yucca site can be maintained.

Moore's verbal order capped a two-day hearing that focused on arguments for and against the board granting DOE's motion to withdraw with prejudice its license request for building a maze of tunnels to entomb highly radioactive waste deep inside Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

At a January hearing, Moore said, "If the system doesn't work and those documents can't be retrieved, that's roughly akin to tossing it in the waste basket."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and DOE officials have said the effort to haul and store 77,000 tons of used nuclear fuel from the nation's power plants and military reactors is not workable. They said they are abandoning the Yucca Mountain project so that a blue ribbon commission can chart a new course to explore other options including recycling, reprocessing and above-ground storage into the next century.

Without a workable network to obtain documents for depositions and challenges to the application, parties, including Nevada, will have a difficult if not impossible task of defending their positions in court cases.

How much the archiving will cost and how it will be funded were unclear.

The Construction Authorization Board expects to issue a ruling on DOE's motion to withdraw its Yucca Mountain license application by the end of June.

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