Nuclear power expansion stalled
BY STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 06/25/2007 09:05:44 PM PDT
SACRAMENTO – The failure of the federal government to open a storage site for radioactive waste means any chance to expand nuclear power in California is more than a decade away, according to a draft report prepared for the state Energy Commission.
The report by MRW & Associates, an Oakland-based consulting firm that specializes in power market issues, said the U.S. Department of Energy was supposed to open the Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada by 1998.
“However, nearly 10 years after the deadline, a repository at Yucca Mountain is still more than a decade away from being opened, and the opening date continues to slip,” the report states.
The Department of Energy said last year the storage site could be opened as early as March 2017 but that a more realistic date was September 2020, according to the MRW report. Earlier this year, the department pushed those predictions back another year.
A California law passed in 1976 prohibits construction of nuclear plants until the Energy Commission concludes that the federal government has found a proven way to store or reprocess spent nuclear plant fuel.
The MRW report comes as the commission opened two days of hearings Monday on the
status of nuclear power. Information from the hearings will be used to prepare a report to the governor and Legislature on how to address the state’s energy needs.
The state currently has two operating nuclear plants, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. California utilities also own 27 percent of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona.
Nuclear plants supplied nearly 13 percent of the state’s electricity last year, and supporters tout expansion of nuclear power as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global warming.
But a long-term method to deal with the waste from nuclear plants remains elusive.
California has more than 2,400 tons of radioactive waste stored at active and decommissioned nuclear plants, and the spent fuel continues to accumulate, said Robert Weisenmiller, executive vice president of MRW.
Eric Knox, an official with the Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, said he remains optimistic that Yucca Mountain will be opened despite the delays.