NRC Chairman updates Congress on work on Yucca Mountain issues

It will take many more months and millions of additional dollars before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff can complete important documents connected with the court-ordered license case for the proposed Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository in Nevada.

This was part of a regular monthly status report that NRC Chairman Stephen Burns submitted to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich).

“This report describes NRC activities in March 2016 to address the remand by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the case In re Aiken County regarding the licensing process for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain license application,” Burns said in the April 21 letter to the congressional panel. 

 On Aug. 13, 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 the NRC to “promptly continue with the legally mandated licensing process” for the DOE’s application to construct a geologic repository for high-level waste at Yucca Mountain.

The NRC promptly began taking steps to comply with the court’s direction following the issuance of the decision, according to the letter.

The NRC staff in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, with the support of the Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses, prepared and issued Volumes 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the safety evaluation report (SER) over the course of a year, completing the last volumes in January 2015.

Completion of the SER cost approximately $8,36m. The staff estimates that it will take a period of 12-15 months at an approximate cost of $2m to complete the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) supplement. The staff expects to publish the final supplement in the first half of calendar year 2016.

The total estimate to complete the work directed in the Feb. 3, 2015, Staff Requirements Memo (SRM) along with the EIS supplement, SER wrap-up activities, and loading other key documents is approximately $3.2m, the NRC reported.

“During the month of March, the NRC expended $164,761 of Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF) funds on its actions in direct response to the court’s decision. Cumulative expenditures since the August 13, 2013, U.S. Court of Appeals decision are $11,502,265,” to NRC.

“The August 13, 2013, balance of $13,549,315 of unexpended NWF funding, less the $11,502,265, results in a remaining unexpended balance of $2,047,050. Total unobligated NWF funds remaining as of March 31, 2016, are $1,383,979. The following table provides further details regarding the NRC’s expenditure of NWF funds since August 13, 2013,” according to NRC.

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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