WASHINGTON - The planned U.S. nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada will cost billions more than previously estimated due to a hike in the amount of waste it will have to dispose of and inflation, the Energy Department said on Tuesday.
The Yucca Mountain program, which began in 1983 and is expected to close in 2133, is expected to cost $96.2 billion in 2007 dollars over its 150-year life cycle, up 67 percent from a 2001 estimate of $57.5 billion.
Excluding inflation, the new estimate increased 38 percent to $79.3 billion.
The Energy Department said the increased costs are due to more than $16 billion in inflation and a 30 percent increase in the amount of nuclear waste that will need to be disposed of at the site.
In addition, the department it is going to cost more than previously expected to dispose of the fuel based on an updated design of the facility.
Despite the rise in costs, the department is not proposing a change in the fees paid by nuclear utilities for waste disposal.
Ward Sproat, director of the office of civilian radioactive waste management, said the Yucca Mountain program is expensive but it is worth it.
"It's a lot of money, but I would argue pretty strenuously the cost of doing nothing is a lot higher," Sproat told reporters.
The long delayed nuclear waste dump is expected to be opened in 2020 at the earliest, the department said in June.
Located about 90 miles from Las Vegas, the site is designed to hold millions of pounds of radioactive waste from U.S. nuclear power reactors underground and tons of leftovers from the country's nuclear weapons program.
Nuclear waste is currently stored at 121 temporary locations in 39 states across the country.
Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Marguerita Choy
© 2008 Reuters