Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Needed: Nuclear Waste Repository

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Needed: Nuclear Waste Repository

Article excerpt

The backlog of spent fuel from the production of nuclear-generated electricity since the early 1960s has spawned a dangerously bad idea: the notion that nothing in the world will persuade the state of Nevada to drop its longstanding objection to an underground waste repository and that the spent fuel should be stored indefinitely at nuclear power plant sites around the country.

Though this expedient might be a source of satisfaction to anti-nuclear groups, it would have serious consequences. It would be a de facto substitute for permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste created by production of one-fifth of the nation's electricity. And it would be an admission that Washington cannot find the means to end Nevada's now-pointless vendetta against the U.S. Department of Energy.

Although the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 imposed a firm schedule for permanent waste disposal, the repository is expected to open at least 12 years later than originally anticipated, and DOE's study of a proposed site for the facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has cost $3.5 billion so far.

The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent board with oversight of the high-level waste program, recently pinpointed one problem. It said the lack of progress and high costs of underground excavation at the Nevada site result from DOE's refusal to hire commercial drilling companies to do the necessary drilling, rather than buying its own drilling rigs. The board estimated that at the current rate, it will take 28 years to complete the planned 40 deep boreholes.

Nationwide, electric utility customers have paid more than $6 billion into a special trust fund to cover the cost of nuclear waste management, but at least half of the money has been held to help reduce the federal budget deficit. Missouri ratepayers alone have paid $67.2 million since 1982. …

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