Yucca Mountain not an option for nuclear waste, DOE official says

The Yucca Mountain site in Nevada is not an option for storing toxic waste from nuclear power plants, said Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman on the sidelines of an international meeting to strengthen global nuclear safety after Japan's Fukushima atomic crisis.

"It is time to turn the page and try to find a better set of solutions," he told Reuters in an interview June 20.

The plan to house atomic waste at Yucca was approved by President George W. Bush in 2002. In 2010, the Obama administration asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to pull an application to license the site and named a panel of experts to look for other options.

In April, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce launched an investigation into the administration's decision to abandon plans to build a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., is leading the probe into the decision to stop the project. He and John Shimkus, R-Ill., chairman of the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, sent letters March 31 to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko asking about the decision to halt the repository. The two House leaders said a review of the available evidence indicates that "there was no scientific or technical basis for withdrawing the application."

Speaking to Reuters, Poneman said in June, "I think any policy -- the success of which can only be measured over many decades -- can only succeed with strong bipartisan support and strong support from the communities affected."

"It was equally clear that Yucca mountain was not going to have that kind of support," he said.

The United States still sees nuclear energy as having a "very important role to play in a low carbon future," Poneman was quoted as saying. "It is not a decision for governments to make but rather for utilities to make when those reactors will be economically viable to build. But it is certainly something that we are still supporting," Poneman said.

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