Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008 | 1:12 p.m.
It's official: The Energy Department announced today that it will cost $96.2 billion to build the nation's nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, operate it for the next 150 years and shut it down.
In a conference call today, the department's Yucca Mountain project director said the new estimate assumes more waste will eventually be stored at the mountain than now allowed. Department projections are counting on Congress to one day lift the 70,000 metric ton limit to 122,000 metric tons at the mountain 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
The new price tag is higher than the $57.5 billion estimated in 2001 due to inflation and the increased quantity and design changes, which account for 10 percent of the difference, said director Edward Sproat. He had suggested the new price tag weeks ago in advance of today's announcement.
The department has not estimated what it would cost to simply keep waste on site at power plants, as Nevada lawmakers who oppose Yucca Mountain have argued for years.
Yucca Mountain is at a pivotal crossroads as the two presidential candidates have starkly different attitudes on the repository. Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, supports Yucca Mountain. Presumed Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama has vowed to withdraw the federal government's license application for the dump, if elected.