Ely Daily Times

DOE official says no WP routes for dump

By C.F.DINGEY -- Ely Times Correspondent

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Although budget cuts have slowed work on transportation issues, the U.S. Department of Energy still plans to open the Yucca Mountain High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository by 2010, a DOE official told the White Pine County Commission this week.

Robert Lupton, public relations specialist with the DOE's Office of Repository Development at Yucca Mountain, told the commissioners during their meeting Wednesday that by 2005, the DOE must look at another site for radioactive waste disposal in addition to Yucca Mountain, or Congress has to pass a law allowing all of the nation's nuclear waste to be stored at Yucca Mountain only.

Lupton said the nation can expect to generate 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste by 2010. The facility or facilities built to store the waste have to be 10,000 year compliant, meaning they must be able to store the waste for 10,000 years.

Lupton said nuclear reactors use only a fraction of the fuel that comes from nuclear material. He said there is still a "significant" amount of energy left that current technology can't extract. This "spent" nuclear fuel is what would

be stored at Yucca Mountain. As he put it, "It's hard to say what kind of new technology we might have in a 100 or 150 years. We might find a way to extract the rest of the useful energy from the fuels stored at Yucca Mountain in the future." For this reason, the Department of Energy has in place a plan to be able to go back into its repositories and use the nuclear fuels it has stored for up to 300 years.

The issue concerning White Pine County, basically, is the transportation of nuclear waste, and the possibility of it passing through the county.

Lupton said there are no plans for waste to be transported through White Pine.

"The preferred method of transport is by rail," he added. However, if Yucca Mountain is used as a repository, the initial shipments of nuclear waste would have to be trucked in until a railroad line could be constructed to the site.

Lupton also cited the safety record of spent, nuclear-fuel shipments to date. There have been over 3,000 shipments in the U.S. over the past 30 years. In addition, there have been 738 Navy container shipments since 1957. In that time, there has never been a release of radioactive material harmful to the public or the environment.

Lupton said he understands the concerns of the public relating to the nuclear-waste issue, and Yucca Mountain in particular. He mentioned the "open door" policy the Department of Energy has in place. The public can tour the Yucca Mountain facility, and see for itself the safety measures in place. The public can actually talk to the scientists who work at the site. He encourages the public to take the tours and to go to the website at www.ocrwm.doe.gov.

Lupton told the commission his office will keep county officials informed on the progress being made at Yucca Mountain and other repositories in the future.

In other business, R&R Roofing of Ely was awarded the contract to repair the roof at the White Pine Senior Center. The amount of the bid was $17,947. The commission had budgeted $20,000 for the roof repairs. Public works supervisor Tony Locke said the roof could need new decking, and if so, the project could cost around $21,000, going over the budgeted amount.

"We won't be able to tell if the roof needs new decking until we get the old roof torn off," he said.