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Yucca Mountain Won't Open Without Water

Funding to complete Yucca Mountain isn’t the only thing the federal Energy Department needs. The agency will also need to acquire water and land rights before it gets approval to store the nation’s most radioactive waste beneath a mountain some 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

A recent report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said most administrative and program elements of the Yucca Mountain repository reviewed by NRC staff meet commission requirements. The sticking point is water.

Nevada has refused for years to provide water to Yucca Mountain, leaving the Energy Department without necessary water rights. Phil Klevorick, program manager for the Clark County Nuclear Waste Division, said he’s not surprised by the report, because “water has always been an issue for Yucca Mountain.”

“Water and land rights are two significant issues that could hold up Yucca Mountain, even if Congress were to give its approval and funding,” Klevorick told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “It’s kind of silly. There’s not even enough water to meet the minimum required to operate their facility.”

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The 181-page report released on Thursday was the third in a five-volume series being released by the NRC. Two more volumes are expected to be issued by the end of January. Congress approved Yucca Mountain in 2002, but the project was put on hold in 2010 after Barack Obama was elected president.

Nevada’s Harry Reid, then Senate Majority Leader, and Congress killed funding for the nuclear waste site. As a result, the NRC halted licensing proceedings and the Energy Department removed all maintenance staff from the facility. The project is back on center stage after a federal appeals court ruled in 2013 that the NRC must either approve or reject the Energy Department’s license application.

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Phil Klevorick, program manager for the Clark County Nuclear Waste Division

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