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DOE Ups Yucca Mountain Cost Estimate

Who's Going to Pay for All This?

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Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility

Keep Out! Yucca Mountain Ahead

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Updated August 10, 2008
The latest revised estimate from the Department of Energy (DOE) shows that from start to finish, the Yucca Mountain, Nevada radioactive waste repository will cost taxpayers a Geiger counter-rattling $96.2 billion, a 38 percent increase from the $57.5 billion estimate published in 2001.

The latest DOE Yucca Mountain "life cycle" cost estimate includes the costs to research, construct and operate Yucca Mountain during a period of 150 years, from the beginning of the program back in 1983 through closure and decommissioning in 2133.

The Yucca Mountain Money Breakdown
DOE projects the $96.2 billion will be spent like this:

  • About $13.5 billion already spent since 1983

  • $54.8 billion for the construction, operation, and decommissioning

  • $19.5 billion estimated for transporting radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain

  • $8.4 billion for "the balance of program activities"

Who's Going to Pay for All This?
According to DOE, the revised cost estimates anticipates a 30 percent increase in the amount of radioactive waste the nation's nuclear power plants will be shipping to Yucca Mountain for storage. However, proposals to offset the soaring project costs to by increasing the nuclear waste shipping and storage fees to be paid by the nuclear industry have so far been rejected by the DOE.

DOE anticipates that the combined costs of building and operating the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository will be divided between nuclear power consumers -- ratepayers -- and the rest of us -- taxpayers -- with ratepayers paying a little more than 80 percent, or about $77.3 billion.

Now, nuclear utility ratepayers are also taxpayers. Will they get charged twice for Yucca Mountain? Not right now, says the DOE. Commercial nuclear power producers currently pay one tenth of one cent for each kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce into the federal Nuclear Waste Fund. According to DOE, that is currently enough to cover the ratepayers' share of the total cost of Yucca Mountain. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires the Secretary of Energy to conduct an annual review of the fee paid by nuclear power producers and adjust it if necessary.

In addition to the $13.5 billion already spent, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2007, that the Department of Energy spent over $20 million in dealing with Yucca Mountain site suitability testing records apparently falsified by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) workers.

Whose Nuclear Waste is it, Anyway?
Oh, by the way, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, that first authorized construction of a national nuclear waste repository back in 1982, "is based on the principle that our society is responsible for safely disposing of the nuclear wastes we create." Created any nuclear waste lately?

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