End of the road for nuclear storage?

President Barack Obama presented quite the “to do” list when he released his budget last week. This one may be among the most challenging: Finding a place to put all the nuclear junk the nation’s nuclear power plants are creating.

Obama’s budget has scaled back funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. It doesn’t say how much it’s scaled back, only that the feds will spend money on the Nevada mountain project “to those costs necessary to answer enquiries from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal.”

Nuclear proponents have hoped for years that Yucca Mountain would be the answer to the #1 problem plaguing the nuclear industry.

The waste is piling up, of course. In Minnesota, the Prairie Island nuclear plant’s waste has been stored in dry casks for years. Over the years the Legislature has approved additional storage there, over the objections of the Prairie Island Mdewankanton Dakota Reservation. The current capacity will run out between 2013 and 2014.

Xcel Energy built a three-acre facility at its Monticello plant, to store spent fuel in steel containers inside concrete vaults.

Both locations are going to be around for awhile, judging by a May 2007 letter to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that might be the solution for the foreseeable future. ” I believe a better short-term solution is to store nuclear waste on-site at the reactors where it is produced, or at a designated facility in the state where it is produced, until we find a safe, long-term disposal solution that is based on sound science.”

The contractor that was developing Yucca Mountain saw the end coming. Last month it laid off half of the 1,100 employees at the site.

It was supposed to open in 1998.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission currently has 17 applications for 26 new nuclear reactors in the U.S.