NARUC says NRC not doing enough to restart Yucca Mountain case

While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said recently that it was taking the first incremental step in restarting the license application case for the Yucca Mountain spent fuel site in Nevada, it isn’t going far enough to satisfy parties that won rulings against NRC in a federal appeals court.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Nye County, Nev., the State of South Carolina, the State of Washington, and Aiken County, S.C., filed joint motions on the issue Nov. 27 before NRC.

The parties, who successfully won a “writ of mandamus” against NRC in federal appeals court, said they are seeking leave to file a motion for reconsideration with NRC.

NRC had said Nov. 18 that it was instructing NRC staff to complete the safety evaluation report (SER) for the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Yucca Mountain construction authorization application. The NRC said this was an incremental step in resuming the license review.

But the “five parties” from the litigation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the order fails to demonstrate that NRC will fully comply with the order by the D.C. Circuit.

The full D.C. Circuit refused, in late October, to reconsider a ruling by a three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit that went against NRC.

“The [NRC] Order also fails to provide a sufficient legal and factual basis for the Commission’s decision,” according to NARUC and the other parties. “Without additional information and modification to the Order, the only potential recourse is to seek relief from the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.”

The court had ordered NRC to “promptly continue with the legally mandated licensing process” for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

“The Order does not provide an analysis of the stage of completion that each individual SER was in when the licensing was improperly halted; does not specify what additional work remains for completion of each SER; fails to provide an individual cost estimate for completing each SER; and fails to provide revised staff deadlines or a schedule for the release of each individual SER volume,” NARUC and the other parties said.

NRC staff had previously said that SER work was in an “advanced” stage prior to the Obama administration dropping plans, according to the NARUC filing. NARUC and its fellow parties from the litigation also said that NRC offered little to back up its $8.3m estimated cost for completing the SERs.

The case (In the Matter of DOE’s application for geologic repository at Yucca Mountain) is Docket No. 63-001-HLW.

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.