NRC says final Yucca action can wait until ‘lame duck’ session

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has asked a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to wait until the anticipated ‘lame duck’ session of Congress concludes in December before making a final ruling on Yucca Mountain litigation.

“In the meantime, we respectfully suggest that the Court continue to hold this case in abeyance,” according to the motion filed by government lawyers on behalf of NRC.

In a motion filed with the appeals court Oct. 9, NRC attorneys argue that the House and Senate will be under pressure to reach a budget and spending deal during the upcoming lame duck session in an effort to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” and automatic spending cuts to the military.

The court has been asked to decide whether the NRC should be forced to resume its license review for the controversial proposed spent fuel repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Energy (DOE) withdrew plans for Yucca Mountain. NRC subsequently stopped its licensing proceeding – a move that drew harsh criticism from various parties, including state regulatory agencies. NRC has said that it lacked sufficient funding to conclude the license proceedings for the project.

NRC lawyers say any lame duck budget deal would have funding implications for both NRC and DOE.

The NRC filing noted that Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., has proposed a bill that would establish a new regulatory process and ensure adequate funding for managing nuclear waste. The Bingaman bill is an outgrowth of the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

In addition, NRC commissioners have recently testified before congressional panels and answered many lawmaker questions on nuclear waste in general and Yucca Mountain in particular.

“This fact alone indicates serious Congressional interest in legislation addressing this issue and that it remains on Congress’ radar,” according to the NRC filing.

The legal case was argued in August in No. 11-1271: Aiken County, et al., versus NRC.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.