NRC Issues Key Yucca Mountain Licensing Report

Oct. 16, 2014­The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Oct. 16 issued Volume 3 of the safety evaluation report that the agency developed as part of its review of the Energy Departments license application for a planned repository for used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The report contains the NRC staffs finding that DOEs repository design would meet applicable regulatory requirements, including 10 CFR Part 63 Subpart E, after permanent closure of the facility.

This long-awaited technical evaluation provides strong support for our belief that the Yucca Mountain site is appropriate for an underground repository for used nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear energy facilities and high-level radioactive waste from our nations defense program, Nuclear Energy Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Fertel said. Consumers of nuclear-generated electricity deserve to know whether Yucca Mountain is a safe site for the permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste, as billions of dollars and years of independent scientific research suggest.

Issuance of the safety evaluation report is necessary to complete the Yucca Mountain licensing review, and we encourage the NRC to issue the remaining volumes as expeditiously as possible.

The next phase of the NRCs Yucca Mountain licensing process, which involves hearings on challenges to the Energy Departments license application, will require additional funding from Congress and DOEs active involvement.

Fertel said the industry strongly urges Congress to provide the necessary funding for the NRC and DOE to complete the licensing proceeding.

We also strongly urge the Obama administration to direct DOE to comply with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act by fully participating in the licensing process and defending the application that it submitted to the NRC in 2008, Fertel said.

DOEs Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management that oversaw the Yucca Mountain program was closed in 2010 when the administration withdrew the license application. Fertel said that in light of the issuance of the NRCs safety report, DOE should immediately begin re-establishing a program to support the Yucca Mountain project, adding that the United States must have a viable program to manage and dispose of the nations used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

To date more than 72,000 metric tons of commercial used nuclear fuel is being safely and securely stored at 74 nuclear reactor sites in 34 states. According to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the federal government was to have begun disposing of these materials by Jan. 31, 1998. Its failure to do so has resulted in the payment in damages from a taxpayer-funded Judgment Fund of about $3.7 billion as of September 2013. DOE estimates that by 2021 the federal governments total liability will be more than $25 billion.

In addition, consumers of nuclear electricity have paid $20 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund expressly for the disposal of used nuclear fuel. The fund currently has a balance of more than $30 billion, including interest and expenses to date.

It is in the best interest of our nation that the federal government begins to meet its legal obligations as soon as possible and to establish a viable program for the long-term management and disposal of commercial used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, Fertel said. On behalf of nuclear energy producers and suppliers, we urge Congress to fund, and the administration to continue, the review of the Yucca Mountain repository license application.

The Volume 3 safety evaluation report, designated NUREG-1949, is available on the NRCs website and on ADAMS document database under ML14288A121.

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