WASHINGTON — Steven Chu said Tuesday that as energy secretary he will pursue the “best possible scientific analysis” to chart the disposal of the nation’s nuclear waste, without saying what he plans to do about the proposed Yucca Mountain repository.
Appearing at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chu was asked how he plans to approach nuclear waste management, where the government’s preferred disposal site in Nevada is more than 10 years behind schedule.
Nuclear waste poses “very thorny questions,” Chu said, noting that President-elect Barack Obama has stated “very clearly” his opposition to the repository, where the Energy Department is seeking a license to build disposal tunnels for more than 77,000 tons of radioactive material.
If confirmed as expected, Chu will be the Energy Department leader, and he offered no endorsement of the Yucca project in answering questions about nuclear power and its byproducts.
He spoke beyond the program, saying several times that finding a solution to the issue of nuclear waste storage would be a priority.
Chu said those efforts should not hold up development of new nuclear power plants.
“I am very confident the Department of Energy with cooperation with other countries can get a solution to the nuclear waste problem,” he said.
Chu, a Chinese-American who has been director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, said he hopes science will provide answers, including nuclear waste recycling “in the long term.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.