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History of Yucca Mountain | 1982-2018

Posted at 12:44 PM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-10 17:09:29-04

A look at the attempt to establish Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a site for a nuclear waste repository.  Yucca Mountain is located approximately 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. 

Congress passes Nuclear Waste Policy Act, requiring establishment of a place to store nuclear waste. The act requires 2 repositories -- one on each side of the country.

9 locations in 6 states are selected for review. 

DOE issues site suitability guidelines

DOE nominates 5 sites. 3 sites are then selected for further investigation -- Hanford, Washington; Deaf County, Texas; and Yucca Mountain. The DOE decides not to choose a
site in the East. 

Yucca Mountain was chosen based on several factors: distance from a major population center, desert location, in a closed hydrologic basin, surrounded by federal land and protected by natural geological barriers. 

Congress amends the 1982 legislation, stopping the selection process. Yucca Mountain becomes the selected site.  Many believes it is because the speaker of the House of Representatives at the time was Jim Wright from Texas. The House Majority Leader was Tom Foley from Washington state.

DOE holds public hearings on site characterization.

DOE begins grading work on first phase of the Exploratory Studies Facility.

Tunneling into Yucca Mountain begins. Critics say the portal ramps and entrance are constructed for use as a repository and not a study area. 

Tunnel boring machines encounters loose ground at various points. 

Testing reveals that Yucca Mountain may not be the best site to store nuclear waste.

Thermal testing begins at Yucca Mountain.

DOE fails to meet January deadline for waste acceptance. Lawsuits are filed by the state and nuclear industry. Proposed legislation for temporary storage dies in Congress.
DOE released Yucca Mountain Viability Assessment report which declares the site as viable but says much work must be done before it can be officially recommended. 

President Bill Clinton vows to veto any legislation that would result in interim fuel storage at the Nevada Test Site. 

New site suitability guidelines are issued. The new guidelines do not include many requirements of the original Nuclear Waste Police Act. The state of Nevada files a lawsuit in
an effort to stop further development.

President Clinton again vetoes nuclear waste legislation passed by Congress. The site characterization work continues.

EPA announces proposed radiation standards for Yucca Mountain. The state of Nevada files a lawsuit against the EPA, arguing the standards are inadequate. DOE is forced to
investigate reports of collusion between itself, its contractors and the nuclear industry.

RELATED: Can Nevada bury Yucca Mountain?

Yucca Mountain is officially recommended to President Bush in February. 

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn issues a Notice of Objection in April.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate override the objection in July.

On July 23, President Bush signs  resolution that allows the DOE to take the next step in establishing a repository.

Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board releases a report expressing concerns about Yucca Mountain. The board recommends additional research.

The D.C. Circuit of Appeals decides that the EPA's 10,000-year compliance period for radiation protection at Yucca Mountain is illegal. The court rules that the EPA must
reissue its compliance period rule. The NRC must also reissue its licensing rule, which is based on the EPA's regulations.

In November, the DOE announces it will not submit its Yucca Mountain license application to the NRC in December as planned. It is announced that  a revised schedule will be
released in 2005.

In January, the DOE unveils its plan for above ground nuclear waste storage. They announce plans to ship nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain in "dedicated trains" that would
cross multiple states. 

In March, the DOE accuses the US Geological Survey of falsifying QA documentation.

DOE says it will submit licensing application to NRC in June. They set a new target date of 2017 for the opening of Yucca Mountain as a repository. 

DOE issues environmental studies. Certifies license application document database is complete.

The Walker River Paiute Tribe withdraws its permission to allow nuclear waste to be shipped through its reservation. 

In December, the NRC rejects Nevada's challenge to the database. Congress cuts Yucca Mountain's budget to $390 million in 2008.

DOE submits its license application to NRC for approval. Nevada files a petition urging the NRC to reject the application.

Secretary of Energy says that Yucca Mountain is not a workable option and the DOE terminates its efforts to obtain a license.

President Obama names a 15-member panel of experts to look into ways to handle nuclear waste. It became known as the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear
Future. They were told to issue a report in 18 months.

In February, the NRC judges halt Yucca license hearings. 

In March, the group asks Congress to keep Yucca Mountain alive. 

In May, the state of Nevada files a motion with the NRC, asking it to approve the DOE's application to pull out of Yucca Mountain.

In June, the NRC says that the DOE can not withdraw.

House lawmakers attempt to insert funding for Yucca Mountain into the DOE spending bill. However, the Senate rejects it each year. 

RELATED: The 'screw Nevada bill' and how it stymied U.S. nuclear waste policy

Nevada is in a state of limbo at the beginning of the year. In July, Washington state and South Caroline file lawsuit to compel the NRC to resume its consideration of a nuclear
waste repository at Yucca Mountain.  A 3-judge panel rules the lawsuit is premature until the NRC makes a final decision about Yucca Mountain. 

In September, the NRC allows the Obama administration to continue plans to close the controversial site. 

The Blue Ribbon Commission recommends that Congress create and fund a new organization dedicated solely to managing spent nuclear fuel.

House lawmakers that support a dump at Yucca Mountain plan to advance a bill that would set aside $35 million to revive the site. The Republican-led action renews the
annual tug of war over Yuca Mountain that had tilted in favor of Democrat Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada in recent years. 

U.S. Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee produce bill that takes first step to address nation's nuclear waste problem. The bill seeks to establish a more
cooperative approach for the government to recruit states and communities to host temporary nuclear waste storage sites and a permanent repository.

In October, groups that have sued the Obama administration in an attempt to force it to restart the project ask federal judges to make final decision.

DOE issues a strategy for managing spent nuclear fuel in response to the commission's recommendations. The plan calls for an interim storage facility to be established by

U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia tells NRC to restart Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding using appropriated funds even though there is not enough money.
The NRC orders the process to restart.

The NRC releases part of its report on suitability on Yucca Mountain as a disposal spot. 

NRC's releases more of its report. The safety evaluation report includes the staff's  recommendation that the commission should NOT authorize construction of the repository
because the DOE has not met certain land and water rights requirements. 

Work has stopped on the exploratory tunnel and it has been boarded up. The site has basically been abandoned. The status of the project is uncertain. 

Spent nuclear fuel is currently being stored at 121 sites across 39 states. More than 160 million Americans live within 75 miles of the sites. No one lives within 5 miles of Yucca Mountain and very few people live within 15 miles. 

Trump administrations calls for a restart of licensing for Yucca Mountain. $120 million included in Trump's budged blueprint for fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017. Bill to license and expedite the licensing and development of the nuclear waste site is passed by subcommittee
Gov. Brian Sandoval reiterates his pledge that the state will oppose any attempt to continue development of Yucca Mountain. 

House approves election-year bill to revive Yucca Mountain on May 10. The bill directs the DOE to continue its licensing process for Yucca Mountain while moving forward with a separate plan for a temporary storage site in New Mexico or Texas. 


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