NRC expects Yucca license process will cost another $330m

Completing the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository construction licensing process would require an additional $330 million from Congress, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Stephen Burns told a Senate panel this week.

All four NRC commissioners participated in a rare appearance before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) promised more hearings before his committee because of the importance of nuclear in the nation’s energy profile.

Reiterating some points he made at a speech at NEI last month (see Nuclear Energy Overview, Feb. 5), Alexander said it would be “a shame to allow nuclear energy to decline in this country.” He emphasized nuclear energy’s ability to combat the threat of climate change because it does not emit greenhouse gases.

Alexander and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) discussed several issues, including used nuclear fuel disposition and the Yucca Mountain repository program, the cumulative impact of regulation on the industry, the second license renewal of operating reactors, and the anticipated opening of the Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor.

The NRC’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal of $1.03 billion is 1.7 percent higher than was approved for fiscal 2015. Approximately 90 percent of the NRC’s budget is recovered through user fees, with Congress appropriating funds for NRC activities that do not directly benefit licensees, including homeland security activities and international programs. The NRC did not request any funds, which would be sourced from the Nuclear Waste Fund, to continue its review of the Yucca Mountain license application.

Expressing her doubt that used fuel could safely remain in used fuel pools or dry storage at reactors for as long as 300 years, Feinstein said that she and Alexander intend to pursue passage of the Nuclear Waste Administration Act. The measure would allow for the establishment of consolidated storage facilities such as the one being proposed by Waste Control Specialists in Texas.