House panel wants to hear from NRC on restarting Yucca case

A House Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee panel wants to hear testimony from NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane Sept. 10 on NRC’s plans to restart the license application process for the Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository in Nevada.

In an Aug. 23 letter, the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy called upon Macfarlane to update the panel on NRC’s plans to comply with an Aug. 13 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

The D.C. Circuit has issued a writ of mandamus compelling NRC to resume review of the Department of Energy (DOE) application to build the repository at Yucca Mountain.

In a Feb. 28 hearing before the subcommittee, “you and your fellow commissioners committed to honor the Court’s decision concerning resumption of the license review and to provide monthly reports on the staff’s progress and expenditure of resources,” according to the letter. “The Committee will look forward to the monthly reports, beginning in September.”

A critical milestone in the license review process is the NRC’s public release of its Safety Evaluation Report (SER) on the proposed Yucca Mountain design. The SER will outline the technical staff’s evaluation on whether the repository will comply with public health, safety and environmental standards.

The committee understands “from documents and testimony” that SER documents could be completed and released within a matter of months.

“Our country has invested 30 years and $15 billion in determining whether Yucca Mountain would be a safe repository,” according to the House panel’s letter. “Transparency” is important, the letter goes on to state.

The letter was signed by full Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill.

While the court ruled that NRC should restart the license case, the chances of the Yucca Mountain site being developed still faces tough odds. DOE under President Obama has said Yucca won’t go forward. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., remains opposed to Yucca Mountain.

Also the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has recommended that any nuclear waste repository go to a willing host community.

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.