The absence of new funding for Yucca Mountain licensing in the next fiscal year's budget deal is a significant win for Nevada, state officials said.
Congress on Wednesday unveiled a $1.15 trillion fiscal spending bill for 2016 that continues to make previously appropriated funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository available, however federal officials noted that those funds wouldn't suffice to move forward the project without additional appropriations.
"We believe the NRC's remaining Yucca Mountain funds will be down to about $1 million after finalizing the NRC Staff Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Supplement on Groundwater Impacts sometime in early 2016," Bob Halstead, executive director of Nevada's Nuclear Projects Office said in an email statement.
DOE previously estimated that they needed $1.66 billion to complete licensing and associated activities, but NRC commissioners told Congress that they needed $330 million for the legally mandated licensing proceeding of the proposed repository.
"We believe that DOE has a total of about $40 million in remaining Yucca Mountain carry-over funds," Halstead said.
Halstead said the win is "significant" considering that the U.S. House of Representatives last May passed an Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that provided $150 million for DOE, of which $25 million was allocated to the NRC prohibiting use of any funds for closure activities associated with Yucca Mountain license application and $5 million to affected units of local government "to support the Yucca Mountain geologic repository." The bill didn't provide any funds to the state of Nevada.
In the meantime, some Yucca proponents claimed a win for their position. A press release from House Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers said a continuation of prior-year funding for Yucca Mountain "to maintain its viability for future use" was among policy items.
Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen called the failure to provide additional money for the project "a great loss" for the nation.
"The threat to national security has never been higher and the Senate not only did not fund Yucca Mountain, but also failed to provide money for interim disposal," he said.
"The money to fund the hearings and this project are sitting in an account unused and should be used, according to the law, or returned to the ratepayers that have waited for over 30 years to have a repository," he said. "After 30 years and $15 billion how can anyone consider this a win?"
Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77