Inhofe comments on NRC’s Yucca Mountain license review

January 29, 2015 

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement upon the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) completed technical review of the Yucca Mountain repository license application:

“The American people have spent 30 years and $15 billion to determine whether Yucca Mountain would be a safe repository for our nation’s civilian and defense-related nuclear waste. Four years ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s review was illegally shutdown. Today, with the public release of the last remaining volumes of the Safety Evaluation Report, Americans will finally know the complete technical conclusion about the safety of Yucca Mountain. Congress must now provide funding for the licensing process to continue, and transfer control over the land and water rights to the Department of Energy (DOE) to officially make Yucca Mountain a place to safely contain our nation’s nuclear waste. I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that America has a safe, permanent resting place for nuclear waste.”

The complete 5-volume Safety Evaluation Report documents the NRC’s technical conclusions, of which no safety concerns were highlighted that would prevent NRC authorizing construction of the Yucca Mountain repository. However, Congress would have to transfer control of the land where the repository is located to DOE and provide water rights before NRC staff would recommend issuing construction authorization, something widely known for decades.

In Volume 2, the NRC staff recommended certain licensing conditions including requiring prior NRC approval before emplacement of certain types of fuel and complete agreements for airspace restrictions to prevent overflights. Such license conditions do not preclude construction authorization but represent additional requirements DOE must meet. Volume 5 summarizes the entire Safety Evaluation Report including findings, license conditions, and the need for DOE to comply with the NRC’s requirements for land control and water rights.

The next steps in the Yucca Mountain licensing process include completion of the Environmental Impact Statement, and the adjudication of stakeholder contentions disputing various aspects of the application and the NRC staff’s conclusions. The last step in the process is for the Commission itself to issue its decision regarding authorization of repository construction.