Thursday, May 19, 2011

NRC Releases Unredacted Yucca Report To Congressional Members

May 17: Back in February, Republican members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to release for public review information related to its scientific and technical evaluation of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. In particular, the letter requests Volume III of the NRC's Safety Evaluation Report Related to Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Wastes in a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The report was planned for release last year and was delivered to the NRC Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards in July 2010 for final approval and publishing, but has yet to be released by the Commission. In addition, the members requested answers to a number of questions about the Yucca Mountain site.
    On May 17, Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) released an April 28, 2011, letter from NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. In the letter Jaczko explains that despite his reservations, a majority of the Commission is willing to provide unredacted copies in response to Congressional Committee requests provided that they are held in confidence. Jaczko said that, "Even my colleagues and I have not had access to the redacted portions of SER Volume III." He said the findings and conclusions in the document are preliminary and "The staff's preliminary findings may turn out to be incorrect or incomplete. As such, they can mislead or confuse the public." He indicated that the document was being released "with the request that you and your staff will respect the potential adverse impact of public release and safeguard this information accordingly."
    In response to a question stating: "In October, you noted "No specific actions have yet been taken to terminate the program." Since then, what specific actions have been taken or will be taken to terminate review of the license application, including all actions related to Staff review of the application?"
    Jaczko responded, "As explained in my response to an earlier letter on the matter (attached), at the beginning of the new fiscal year, the staff began the process of transitioning to close-out of the Yucca Mountain program consistent with Commission policy, the general principles of appropriation law, and applicable guidance from the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability office on expenditure of funds under continuing resolutions. At that time, the staff began the process of documenting and preserving the staff's review, including the development of a technical evaluation report (TER). The agency will continue and conclude these close-out activities consistent with the recently enacted Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations law."
    Access the 3-page Jaczko letter to Rep. Hall (click here). Access links to related Science Committee releases on the Yucca Mountain issue (click here). [*Haz/Nuclear, *Energy/Nuclear]

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