Obama budget seeks end to Yucca nuclear waste dump

An aerial view of the remote Nevada site of Yucca Mountain in Nevada is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Dept Of Energy-Handout RC/HB

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration said Thursday it wanted to officially terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage waste site and instead spend $197 million to phase out the project and “explore alternatives” for nuclear waste disposal.

“All funding for development of the (Yucca Mountain) facility would be eliminated, such as further land acquisition, transportation access, and additional engineering,” the administration said in its proposed government budget for the 2010 spending year that begins this October 1.

In its budget proposal, the White House said President Barack Obama believes “that nuclear power is -- and likely will remain -- an important source of electricity for many years to come and that how the Nation deals with the dangerous byproduct of nuclear reactors is a critical question that has yet to be resolved.”

The White House pointed out that Energy Secretary Steven Chu plans to set up a blue ribbon commission of experts to evaluate storage options for nuclear waste and make recommendations to the administration.

The Yucca Mountain storage site, planned about 90 miles from Las Vegas, has endured years of bureaucratic delays and scientific foul-ups.

Yucca Mountain was designed to store millions of pounds of radioactive waste from 104 U.S. nuclear power reactors along with tons of leftovers from the country’s nuclear weapons program.

Currently, spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste are stored at 121 temporary locations in 39 states across the country.

Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by John Picinich