Yucca economics

The Department of Energy still doesn’t know what to do with nuclear waste, but an analysis by the Government Accountability Office shows the Yucca Mountain repository may be the more expensive option compared with storing it in two centralized locations or onsite where the waste is generated. However, when final geologic disposal is factored in, the costs are only slightly lower on the low end and could even be more expensive on the high range.

To dispose of 153,000 metric tons of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain would cost $29-$47 billion over 100 years. (The report lists this as $41 to $67 billion over 143 years; the numbers are adjusted here for comparison.) Disposing that same amount in centralized storage at two locations—provided the DOE could find a state willing to host such a site—would cost $15-$29 billion but increase to $23-$81 billion with final disposal. Disposing it onsite would cost $13-$34 billion over 100 years but increase to $20-$97 billion with final geologic disposal. The report noted that utility lawsuits over Yucca Mountain project delays will cost taxpayers an estimated $12.3 billion through 2020 and could cost $500 million each year after 2020.

A joint statement from Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign says the study shows the alternatives are cheaper than Yucca and that it validates the Obama administration’s announcement to terminate the Yucca Mountain project and seek alternatives. Read the full report at www.gao.gov/new.items/d1048.pdf