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  • NRC Trips Obama’s Sprint to Close Yucca Mountain

    In a welcome decision, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday announced that it will not act on the Department of Energy’s motion to withdraw its application to construct the nuclear materials repository at Yucca Mountain until the court system rules on related lawsuits.

    Not only will it not consider the motion but it will continue its work on the application review and expects to have a significant portion completed by November. In other words, Yucca is far from dead.

    The announcement from the NRC was a pleasantly unexpected one. Just days ago Department of Energy Secretary said, “We are taking steps to end [Yucca Mountain] because… we see no point in it. It’s spending a lot of money. It’s very important that we not linger around this decision. It’s been made, and we want to go forward and move into the future.” The DOE called Yucca an unworkable option. Apparently the NRC wasn’t listening.

    After the DOE proclaimed that it would withdraw the Yucca application, a dozen parties subsequently filed petitions to intervene, mostly on the grounds that it was unlawful for the DOE to do so. And this was the problem all along for the Administration’s policy. They disregarded the process, ignored existing statute, flouted the will of Congress, and overlooked the science. Most importantly, they allowed politics to get in the way of sound policy.

    Just like the president’s announcement on offshore drilling, his rhetoric on nuclear sounds good but his policy decisions do little to advance the long-term prospects of nuclear energy. This is clearly the case with Yucca.

    Even if Yucca is not the final destination for our nation’s nuclear waste, it shouldn’t prevent the NRC from completing the Yucca license application. A geologic repository will eventually be needed, and the application process will provide the NRC, DOE, and the nuclear industry valuable information to inform future decision-making.

    If killing Yucca Mountain is what the Administration wants to do then it should go about it the right way. It should seek legislative reforms to allow for a Yucca alternative and develop an achievable Plan B to take the current plan’s place. Doing so would allow the 121 communities across the country that currently store both commercial and defense waste to be more comfortable with the process. .

    A better approach altogether, however, would be to institute reforms that would allow the project to move forward in a more stable way. The heart of such an approach would be to empower the State of Nevada to determine the outcome of Yucca Mountain. Then Nevada could negotiate a workable solution directly with industry—leaving out the federal government and all of its politics. If no workable plan is developed, then Yucca dies on Nevada’s terms. If, however, an agreement is reached, then Nevada could enjoy the many economic benefits of hosting such a facility.

    The Obama Administration’s awkward attempt to strong-arm the death of Yucca Mountain is but the latest chapter in government ineptitude when it comes to nuclear waste. It’s good to see the NRC seems to have recognized the folly of the process and responded by slowing things down. To be effective, regulators can not be bullied and judging by yesterday’s decision; the NRC will not be bullied. Good for them.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to NRC Trips Obama’s Sprint to Close Yucca Mountain

    1. Yucca Insider, Las V says:

      This is the first place I've seen this story reported, which is odd given that NRC's judges have made a very significant decision in issuing their motion to stay the Yucca Mountain proceeding until the Courts of Appeals rule on petitions filed by Washington, South Carolina, and Aiken County, SC.

      There may not be anything behind it, but it seems strange that the Nevada papers have not reported this story.

      Especially noteworthy in the NRC panel's motion are its implied "suggestions" to the Courts of Appeal regarding the status and force of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA). Though prefaced by disclaimers (e.g., "While the Board expresses no view on the merits of the claims before the Court"), the NRC panel nonetheless gives its opinion on the legal implications of the NWPA, rebutting, for example, DOE's claim that the petitions should be refused because the NWPA only allows court intervention with respect to "final" actions. The NRC panel shoots down that notion, citing chapter and verse of the NWPA, and also kicks a dent in DOE's ripeness arguments, among other things.

      Most importantly, the NRC panel recognizes that DOE's motion to withdraw its Yucca Mountain license application cuts both ways, legally speaking. The panel says that the question of whether DOE can legally withdraw its license application, and the question of whether NRC can legally grant DOE's request and thus end prematurely NRC's evaluation of that application, are "two sides of the same coin."

      This was the first time, to my knowledge, that the NRC panel has put this question on the record, even though it has been on the minds of many of us who are following this very important proceeding. NRC, in other words, has officially acknowledged that it has responsibilities under the NWPA, just like DOE, and that NRC may likewise be answerable for failing to carry out those responsibilities.

    2. Mike Stevenson UK says:

      How ironic that US government and politics is potentially going to stifle a national repository for the USA at exactly the same time as Government cost cutting will surely do the same in the UK.

      The Nuclear industry legacy of Safe Electricity production has unfortunately been spoilt by our Waste issues… If the Nuclear industry is to survive and prosper in the 21st century we must bite on this painful bullet now to prove our long term credibility

      Nuclear is not (and can never be seen as) a short term process and has to face its demons from the previous generations.

      “No Repository” means “No Public confidence” in what we do and hence “No future”

    3. TruthSeeker, Columbu says:

      A college of mine is citing this article as an “Example of Socialistic Tendencies” by Obama. Would the readers of The Heritage agree that this article “proves” just that? I’m curious.

    4. Rod Davidson, Camano says:

      It would have been illuminating if you pointed out that the nuclear industry is (was) paying the bill for the dsevelopment of Yucca Moutain (to the tune of over $10.5 billion so far) and not the federal government.

      When the DOE secretary states that "we are spending a lot of money" he makes it soulnd like it is federal government money, which it isn't.

      Congress, in 1983, passed the Nuclear Waste Act, which required the federal government develop a national nuclear waste depository by the late 1990's. Obviously, this hasn't happened. Now we have another "blue ribbon committee" to look at the options.

      If the federal government conducts Obamacare with the same degree of incompetence, I can only imagine the terrible financial condition our country will find itself in.

    5. Dr. Scott Davis, Cas says:

      Since the 32 year old treaty banned the reprocessing of nuclear material, the need for storage and waste facilities grows. For years we, as a Nation, imported the necessary isotopes for medical and other purposes from Canada and other places.

      Recently, Congressmen Upton and another from Mass, submitted legislation to amend this law to allow for reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel for such purposes.

      I understand that the reprocessing of nuclear fuel is done by numerous other Nations in safe and sound practices. This should definitely become a part of ANY nuclear waste disposal.

      Will Heritage follow up with this need?

    6. Ian Zabarte, Nevada says:

      The contentions filed by my organization, the Native Community Action Council a party with standing to the NRC ASLBP CAB, clearly state the facts the DOE has finally realized that: the DOE does not own Yucca Mountain. The NRC siting guidelines require the DOE to prove site ownership. The Nevada Test Site and the entire Yucca Mountain region are owned by the Western Shoshone people in privity with eachother. According to the federal statute creating the Territory of Nevada, "no Indian land is to included into the boundary of jusistiction of any state or territory as long as there is a treaty and without the consent of the tribe." Then there is the Treaty of Ruby Valley. And finally, we do not consent and that was stated in the contentions filed. I say it again here…we do not consent,..period. Thank you for your attention.

    7. Pingback: William M. Briggs, Statistician » EPA’s Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Guest post by Frank Wallace

    8. Kentek Camarillo ca says:

      These bozos and the ones fighting against Yucca in NV are looking very short term.

      What if:

      All of a sudden we have new technology to extract the remaining 95% of the energy stored in the glass nuke tombs? (well, we already can do it. Just silly ass politicos stopping us)

      If I were NV I would park a factory at the base of the mountain and reclaim mounds of nuke fuel.

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