Yucca Mountain, designed to be a final repository for spent nuclear fuel, might have alternative uses, but waste reprocessing is better suited for places such as Savannah River Site, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
“Stakeholders we contacted proposed 30 alternative uses of the Yucca Mountain site,” said the 57-page study, commissioned by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, of Nevada. “However, there was no broad consensus regarding the benefits and challenges of these uses among the experts we consulted.”
Congress chose the 230-square-mile site near Las Vegas in 1987 as a permanent burial ground for spent fuel, and more than $12 billion was spent on its development. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Obama administration later canceled funding for the project.
The controversial decision left in limbo the fate of a growing inventory of spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s 104 commercial power reactors.
The accountability office examined other possible uses for Yucca Mountain including homeland security, mining research, commercial power plants and electronic data storage, with no clear avenues.
“While some experts we contacted identified benefits of the site for certain uses, experts also noted that many of these proposed uses would be costly and may face significant challenges,” the report said.
One alternative use examined was for reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel – a controversial technology.
Though one expert cited the remoteness of Yucca Mountain as an advantage in reprocessing, “another expert stated that other locations would be better suited – including the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory or SRS, which both have an existing infrastructure and workforce,” the report said.