GAO indicates that spent nuclear fuel -- considered very hazardous -- is accumulating at commercial reactor sites in 33 states. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to dispose of this waste in a repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. In June 2008, DOE submitted a license application for the repository, but in March 2010 moved to withdraw it. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or the courts -- as a result of lawsuits -- could compel DOE to resume the licensing process. The report examines: (1) the basis for DOE's decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain program; (2) the termination steps DOE has taken and their effects; (3) the major impacts if the repository were terminated; and, (4) the principal lessons learned. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed knowledgeable parties.
In its recommendations, GAO suggests that Congress consider whether a more predictable funding mechanism would enhance future efforts and whether an independent organization would be more effective. GAO also recommended that DOE assess remaining risks of the shutdown; create a plan to resume licensing if necessary; and report on Federal property and its disposition. NRC concurred with the facts in a draft of this report, but DOE strongly disagreed with the draft and the recommendations, questioning the veracity of GAO's information. GAO said it continues to believe its findings and recommendations are sound.
Upton and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) indicated they are conducting an investigation into the Administration's decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain project. They said, "That investigation has already revealed significant internal legal and policy dissent from within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the administration's decision. The GAO estimates that nearly $15 billion has been spent on the Yucca Mountain repository since 1983, $9.5 billion of which has been directly collected from the public's electric bills."
Access the complete GAO report (click here). Access the release from Rep. Upton and link to additional information (click here). Access the DOE High-Level Nuclear Waste Disposal website for more information (click here) [*Haz/Nuclear, *Energy/Nuclear]