Plans to build a facility that will be a burial site for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain (outside of Las Vegas, Nevada) are back on track after the plan was axed by President Obama back in 2009. A plan was worked on in the 90s with the idea being to open a facility in 1998. Talks have been on the table for this subject since 1983 according to a statement made by a House Representative who is the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This was later changed to 2020 once the project never got off the ground. When Obama cancelled the program four years ago it called for a more thought-out approach to how we deal with burying nuclear waste in the safest and most economical way. Multiple groups (including the Nuclear Energy Institute) calling for Obama to revisit the idea was what got this new plan off the ground.

Nuclear Waste Las Vegas

The report was released on Friday and was authored by the Department of Energy and “developed over two years by a panel of scientists, nuclear energy experts, industry leaders and former elected officials” (Tri-City Herald). This document suggests the building of two temporary facilities to house nuclear substances that have been used with plans to have the fully-functioning facility operational by 2048. The first of these temporary storage locations would be completed by 2021, with the second one being finished by 2025. The former would be able to house 3,600 metric tons of nuclear waste while the latter would hold 20,000 metric tons (Las Vegas Review-Journal).

While many members of Congress are in favor of this plan, or at least in favor of a discussion regarding how to properly deal with our nuclear waste issue, that is not to say there are no opponents or members that have issues with the idea. Potential pitfalls that could result are successfully passing this through Congress as well as paying for the plan in a fiscally responsible way. So while we can be optimistic about our future when it comes to handling nuclear waste, there is still a long way to go before anything is actually accomplished. Even when members from both sides of aisle can agree THAT we should handle the waste removal, fights will inevitably break out when it comes to paying for this and exactly HOW we should handle the debris.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) gave a response to the Department of Energy’s report as posted on the Energy and Commerce Committee website. It reads: “We cannot have a serious conversation about solving America’s nuclear waste problems without talking about Yucca Mountain. There remains a gaping hole in this implementation plan because President Obama precluded the commission from considering Yucca Mountain in its report. The Blue Ribbon Commission emphasized the need for a long-term storage repository, and Yucca Mountain remains the most viable and thoroughly studied option.” On the Committee’s website the quote continues to elaborate on the issues faced with getting anything accomplished when it comes to nuclear waste disposal and the safest and most responsible way to do it.