The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report addressing potential alternative uses for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. In a remote desert location with seven miles of underground tunnels and little infrastructure, the site was withdrawn by the Department of Energy (DOE ) from consideration as a nuclear waste repository in 2009.
DOE ’s withdrawal prompted several states and counties that store spent nuclear fuel to sue the agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC ), alleging that DOE had no authority to terminate the project. The report, which identifies several legal challenges that could hinder or delay any alternative uses of the site, was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who requested an examination of the issue.
According to the report, most alternative uses would be extremely expensive or not suited to the site’s unique features. Suggested uses include (i) medical isotope production; (ii) temporary nuclear waste storage; (iii) defense activities, such as weapons testing or a base for unmanned drones; (iv) cyber storage of classified government information; (v) development of renewable energy; and (vi) scientific research.