Today marks 15 years since the federal government has defaulted on its legal responsibility to store our nation's nuclear waste. According to the law, the Department of Energy was supposed to begin accepting nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain by January 31, 1998. Since then, 76 lawsuits have been filed over DOE's failure to meet its obligation, costing taxpayers over $1.6 billion dollars. Liability costs are estimated to total $19.1 billion through 2020, and $500 million for each year of delay after that.
The Government Accountability Office estimates that nearly $15 billion has been spent on research surrounding the Yucca Mountain repository since 1983, $9.5 billion of which has been directly collected from the public's electric bills. The federal government is still collecting approximately $750 million per year from electricity consumers to pay for a repository that isn't getting built.
Rather than fulfill its commitment to the law and reopen Yucca Mountain, the Obama administration is now suggesting we hit the reset button and start all over. The final recommendations of the administration's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future completely ignored Yucca Mountain and called for a new nuclear repository to be open by 2048.
"Here we are 15 years later and we still have no nuclear repository. Prior to the Obama administration's interruption of the Yucca Mountain project, the landmark effort was nearing the finish line. The suggestion by the Obama administration that the law does not matter and we should hit the reset button on decades of work and billions of taxpayer dollars spent and start all over is irresponsible and outrageous," said Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL). "Taxpayers and ratepayers have already poured billions of dollars into Yucca Mountain and the liability costs continue to increase every day we delay progress toward a nuclear waste solution. The federal government has the responsibility to safely store our nation's nuclear waste, and yet spent nuclear fuel continues to pile up at sites across the country. We can't afford another 35 years of inaction."