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Yucca Mountain nuclear storage in, renewables out in House energy, water bill

June 2, 2011 | 12:25 pm

There's a small surprise in the energy and water bill that passed a key House panel Thursday: Funding was restored for licensing and development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Two years ago, the Senate's energy spending bill officially ended funding of the $13.5-billion project, fulfilling a promise by the Obama administration and the Nevada congressional delegation, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Technically, the plan to store 77,000 tons of waste from the civilian nuclear industry at the site 90 miles north of Las Vegas never died; the 1987 law establishing Yucca Mountain as the nation's storage site remains on the books. And there has been nominal funding for work unrelated to waste shipment at the site. Two states that want to ship waste to the site have sued the Obama administration, and that case remains active.

The House spending bill offers only about $35 million for the project, $10 million of which goes to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue its license application review.

The provision is tucked amid steep cuts to renewable-energy programs, part of a $6-billion paring of the Department of Energy budget. That department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy takes a $1.9-billion hit from what Obama had requested. 

The bill passed the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and is expected to pass the full Appropriations Committee. It stands a chance in the Republican-controlled House but could face trouble in the Senate.

Ruling keeps alive Nevada nuclear waste project

Senate passes bill to close Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site

Report outlines problems at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

-- Geoff Mohan

Photo: The south portal of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada. Credit: Joe Cavaretta/Associated Press