Monday, September 12, 2011

Different Views On What NRC Yucca Mountain Vote Means

Sep 9: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) issued a response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) final vote on the Atomic Safety Licensing Board's (ASLB) ruling that Department of Energy may not withdraw its application for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository. The House leaders said, "The commission announced a tie vote of 2-2, therefore the ASLB's legal decision is not overturned and the DOE's motion to withdraw the application is not granted." However, the tie vote effectively ends the review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, consistent with the strategy of the Obama Administration and the wishes of the Senate Majority Leader.
    According to the NRC staff requirements memorandum (SRM) regarding the matter, SECY-10-0102 – U.S. Department of Energy (High-Level Waste Repository), Review of LBP-10-11, Docket No. 63-001-HLW, "The Commission approved a Memorandum and Order on the question whether the Commission should review, and reverse or uphold, the Construction Authorization Board's decision denying the Department of Energy's motion to withdraw its construction authorization application. The Memorandum and Order states that the Commission was evenly divided on whether to take the affirmative action of overturning or upholding the Board's decision and directs the Board to complete all necessary and appropriate case management activities, including disposal of all matters pending before it, by the end of the fiscal year. Commissioner Apostolakis did not participate in this matter. (Subsequently, on September 9, 2011, the Secretary signed the Memorandum and Order.)"
     The House members said, "While the application is still legally pending, the Commission instructed the Board to "complete all necessary and appropriate case management activities" and document the history of the adjudicatory proceeding by the end of the fiscal year. Upton and Shimkus indicated that effective October 1, this places the license application review in a state of suspended animation awaiting a funding decision by Congress and President Obama. They said, "Today's action means the Yucca Mountain license application remains alive. The full House of Representatives voted this summer 297-130 on a strong bipartisan basis to increase funding for both DOE and NRC to process the license application. We expect the Senate and the President to put politics aside and cooperate with the full House so that license review may proceed, ensuring the billions of taxpayer dollars and nearly three decades of research is not wasted. Justice delayed is justice denied. It is critical we get America's nuclear future back on track and move forward with Yucca Mountain."
    Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also issued a statement on the NRC action, which he said "directs the commission's licensing board [ASLB) to, by the end of this month, close and complete all necessary and appropriate case management activities, including disposal of all matters pending before it and comprehensively documenting the full history of the Yucca Mountain proceeding."
    Senator Reid said, "Today's decision by the NRC brings the Yucca Mountain saga closer to its final conclusion.  I am pleased that the commission is ready to wrap up all work on Yucca licensing by the end of this month. Congress has zeroed out funding for Yucca, the Administration has completely shut down the project, and there is a Blue Ribbon Commission [BRC] of venerable scientific, industry, environmental and policy experts working on a safer, more secure and realistic management strategy for nuclear waste.  Our nation is clearly prepared to move on and finally solve the nuclear waste problem. The Commission's long deliberation on this matter reflects the challenges our country faces in safely and securely managing nuclear waste without running roughshod over a single state or community. For 25 years, I have worked to stop the Yucca Mountain project. I look forward to using that experience to work with my colleagues in finally developing a plan to safely and securely manage nuclear waste in a way that protects Nevadans and all Americans from the most dangerous substance known to man."
    Christopher Guith, VP of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Energy Institute indicated in a blog post, "The rumors of Yucca Mountain's demise are greatly exaggerated. Now that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rightfully agreed the Department of Energy did not and does not have the authority to withdraw the application for Yucca mountain, it is clear the court system is the next stop on Yucca's long and expensive journey. While it is a further waste of taxpayer funds for DOE to defend its decision to ignore its legal obligation in court, I am confident that our judicial system will ultimately require DOE to actually follow the law.  I am also certain that the NRC's decision to close out work on the license application will be challenged in court and in Congress. After America's taxpayers and ratepayers have invested more than $20 billion in this project, it's naive and premature to conclude Yucca Mountain is dead."
    Access the release from Reps. Upton and Shimkus (click here). Access the NRC SRM (click here). Access the CLI-11-07 Memorandum and Order (click here). Access the release from Senator Reid (click here). Access the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) for related information (click here). Access the Chamber blog post (click here). [#Haz/Nuclear]