NRC gives Upton an accounting of Yucca work after remand

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has provided House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) with an accounting of the money spent and work done to comply with a court order on the application for the Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository in Nevada.  

Many states and the nuclear industry had gone to court to force NRC to resume processing the Yucca Mountain license application. Early in the Obama administration, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu declined the proposed facility unsuitable and the Department of Energy (DOE) quit pursuing a license.

In August 2013, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its decision in the case In re Aiken County directing NRC to “promptly continue with the legally mandated licensing process” for DOE’s application to construct a geologic repository for high-level waste at Yucca Mountain,” according to the document.

“The NRC promptly began taking steps to comply with the court’s direction following the issuance of the decision,” according to the documents sent to Upton and other lawmakers on Jan. 23 by NRC Chairman Stephen G. Burns.

The NRC chair forwarded the December 2014 status report on NRC activity and use of unobligated carryover funds appropriated from the Nuclear Waste Fund.

On Oct. 16, 2014, the NRC staff published Safety Evaluation Report (SER) Volume 3, and on Dec. 18, 2014, the staff published SER Volume 4. Shortly after the letter was sent to Upton, NRC also published the SER Volume 2 and Volume 5.

Yucca Mountain advocates say that none of the SER volumes published so far have pointed to a reason why the proposed underground repository at Yucca Mountain could not safely store nuclear waste. The volumes have alluded to some administrative concerns, like lining up certain additional land and water rights near the repository.

The SER work is proceeding and so far is within the September 2013 budget estimate of $8.3m, NRC said in the letter to the members of congress.

The schedule for completion of an environmental impact statement (EIS) supplement is being considered, NRC said.

In February of 2014, DOE informed the NRC that it would not complete an EIS supplement that the staff has determined is needed for the review of DOE’s application under the National Environmental Policy Act, but rather would provide an update to a 2009 technical report that would inform an EIS supplement.

DOE submitted updated documents on post-closure groundwater impacts at Yucca Mountain in October, NRC said.

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.