Energy agency is withdrawing Yucca Mountain project

The U.S. Department of Energy is withdrawing its application for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, through DOE's legal counsel, made the move late last night, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC, on the heels of Monday's news that President Barack Obama was eliminating funding for Yucca Mountain.

The DOE intends to take 30 days to draft another motion, specifying the terms and conditions of withdrawal from consideration by the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, according to the motion.

The Office of Management and Budget specifically directs DOE to "discontinue" its application for the high-level radioactive waste repository because the administration is zeroing out funding for it in 2011, the motion states.

Mired in delays and controversy, the Yucca Mountain project was intended to be a permanent underground site for storage of the highly radioactive spent fuel that is a byproduct of nuclear power. DOE first submitted its application for the Nye County, Nev., site on June 3, 2008, according to the NRC.

Under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the federal government is obligated to come up with a solution that does not burden nuclear reactor owners with the costs and responsibilities of managing and safeguarding the waste. That waste is currently kept at nuclear reactor sites in spent fuel pools and dry storage bunkers.

Last week, under orders from Obama, Chu established a Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The panel will provide advice and recommendations on storage alternatives, processing and other issues.

Chu could not be immediately reached for comment.

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