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Yucca Nuclear Dump's Funding to Be Slashed

Congressional conferees agree to cut the Nevada site's 2006 budget well below previous levels.

November 08, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers agreed Monday to cut 2006 spending for Yucca Mountain well below past-year levels and President Bush's budget request, reflecting the faltering prospects for locating the nation's nuclear waste dump in the Nevada desert.

House and Senate negotiators also ditched a House plan to supplement Yucca Mountain with interim storage sites for nuclear waste, settling instead on spending $50 million to promote the recycling of spent nuclear fuel.

In finishing work on a $30.5-billion bill to fund energy and water projects, lawmakers agreed to spend $450 million in 2006 on Yucca Mountain, the planned underground repository for 77,000 tons of the nation's most radioactive nuclear waste.

The project's budget was $577 million in each of the last two years, and Bush asked for $650 million for the dump in his 2006 budget request.

The final figure also was less than the House and the Senate had separately agreed upon earlier this year.

"No matter what side of Yucca you're on, the truth of the matter is Yucca is ... not on the schedule that even was predicted the last time. It's behind schedule," said Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's energy and water subcommittee.

"We think that this will keep what should be done on schedule," he told reporters.

Two years ago, the Energy Department projected needing $1.2 billion for Yucca Mountain in 2006. That was when officials were hoping to quickly submit a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and open the dump by 2010.

Since then, a series of setbacks -- including a required rewrite of radiation-safety standards -- have slowed the project.

Now it's unclear when the license application will be submitted, and the projected opening date has slipped to 2012.

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