U.S. Department of Energy
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 | 2:45 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that the new president will essentially zero out funding for Yucca Mountain in the 2010 fiscal year budget being submitted to Congress in coming weeks.
President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed budget may contain only minimal funds to begin transitioning the Yucca Mountain program from a long-term nuclear waste dump north of Las Vegas to a system of on-site storage sites at existing power plants across the country. There may also be funds to help workers in Nevada adjust as the project mission is changed.
“When Obama’s budget comes out for the following year, there’ll be nothing in it for Yucca Mountain,” Reid said.
Zeroing out the budget could all but kill the long-running plan to store nuclear waste in the desert.
Reid's comments came during a meeting this afternoon with the Nevada congressional delegation.
Republican Sen. John Ensign agreed there could be funds to make the transition to on-site storage, which he, Reid and other lawmakers from Nevada have maintained was “the best solution.”
Obama's budget is expected in coming weeks, after he takes office. Eliminating funding would make it all but impossible for the Energy Department to continue developing the project, which is now undergoing a four-year review before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Reid said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's budget would also be less than expected.
But first Reid expects to slash another $100 million from the Energy Department's budget for Yucca Mountain for the remainder of this fiscal year. Reid has systematically directed Congress to cut the project’s budget in recent years, an effort to essentially starve the Energy Department of the funds it needs to fully develop the Yucca Mountain. For the first half of this year, Reid cut the project by 20 percent.
The Energy Department advanced the project to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year despite the cuts.
A spokesman for Obama's transition office was not immediately available to comment.