Thursday, June 20, 2013

Congress Should Approve Yucca Mountain AGAIN

According to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), House Republicans will unveil legislation that affirms Yucca Mountain as the nation's sole repository for spent nuclear fuel.  The Center supports the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) staunchly opposes the Yucca project, and a bipartisan group in his chamber is crafting a bill that would allow the storage of nuclear waste at other sites. Reid was a major force behind, and backed, President Obama’s 2010 decision to pull the plug on federal reviews of the Yucca site. President Obama's decision violated a 1982 federal law that says only Yucca could store nuclear waste, and has been the subject of a court fight.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Reid is pleased with the Senate progress on its bill, but noted any legislation can’t be a backdoor avenue for restarting Yucca.

Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), is one of the four lawmakers working on the Senate bill, which would enable the transfer of spent fuel currently housed at commercial reactors to intermediate storage facilities, so long as the federal government is actively looking for a permanent repository.  The Center opposes this alternative.  It is an unnecessary diversion from a permanent solution to the management of our nation's nuclear waste.

Representative John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that oversees nuclear waste issues believes a bill could prod a federal court to decide whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must complete its review of the Energy Department’s application to use Yucca as a permanent waste site.

Yucca Mountain

Petitioners want the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to force the NRC to complete its review. They say halting the process — former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the agency ran out of money — ran afoul of the 1982 federal nuclear waste law.  The Center did not think very highly of Jaczko or his tenure as NRC Chairman.

The federal court issued a stay last August to see whether Congress would send a signal — say, by giving the NRC more funding — before making a final decision. But Congress did not provide additional funding for NRC, leaving the federal case in a holding pattern.

A legislative push — such as one to authorize more funding for Yucca — might be the type of action the court needs to see to make a ruling.  (The Hill, 6/19/2013)

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