NRC will complete environmental review of Yucca project — chairman (February 2015)

Hannah Northey, E&E reporter, Greenwire: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission intends to complete an environmental review of the contentious waste repository under Yucca Mountain in Nevada because the Energy Department has refused to do so, the NRC’s chairman said today.

“The decision is we will do that since [the Department of Energy] told us they won’t be doing it,” NRC Chairman Stephen Burns told reporters at the Platts 11th Annual Nuclear Energy Conference in Washington, D.C., today. “We have the funds that are left over from the carryover for high-level waste, will cover the preparation of the supplemental [environmental impact statement].”

Burns made the comments following his first public speech as chairman, in which he called for a leaner, more efficient agency to match a workload made lighter by a potential nuclear expansion in the United States that never materialized. Although the NRC ramped up for a raft of anticipated new reactors in 2006, the industry has since seen a sharp decline. Applications were pulled and work dissipated amid a recession and the United States’ discovery of cheap shale gas.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, the NRC is being scrutinized by its stakeholders for its responsible use of resources, as well as for the regulatory requirements it imposes on its licensees,” Burns said.

The NRC’s environmental review of the Yucca site is a critical step toward moving the project forward. The NRC last month found the project could be built and operated safely but recommended that the agency not authorize construction until the environmental review was complete and outstanding land and water rights issues were addressed (E&ENews PM, Jan. 29).

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