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April 20, 2015

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Feds to slash Yucca funds as project maintains life

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

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WASHINGTON -- The Energy Department is proposing to severely reduce Yucca Mountain's budget next year, an expected move as President Barack Obama pledged to zero out funds for the proposed nuclear waste dump in fiscal 2011.

Yet it remains unclear if the administration will take the next step of withdrawing the license application, which would be the most serious action taken under the Obama administration to kill the project.

The Energy Department is seeking $46.2 million to close out the project next year, one-tenth of what has been requested for the project in recent years, the trade publication The Energy Daily reported today. The proposal would be part of the White House budget presented to Congress early next year.

Without adequate funding, the project cannot continue its license review before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The publication said the Energy Department plans to abandon the license application next month.

However, sources could not confirm today if Energy Secretary Steven Chu intends to actually withdraw the application next month or is simply proposing the reduced funds.

Nevada opponents of the dump want the license withdrawn and the site declared unsuitable – legal terms that would prevent another administration from re-starting the effort.

Obama pledged to withdraw the license application as part of his plans to kill the nuclear waste project as he campaigned in Nevada. But he has so far allowed the process to limp along on a severely reduced budget.

Foes of the dump warn that until the license is withdrawn the project could remain dormant, but alive.

Bruce Breslow, executive director of Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, which is fighting the dump, said a withdrawal of the application is “what we have been urging.”

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