Yucca Mountain hearings approach as NRC tells staff to prepare
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has directed its staff to begin a process that would be necessary to eventually resume work towards the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
NRC staff have been authorized to spend about $110,000 to begin preparing access to necessary documents and to finding a meeting site in Nevada that could be used for hearings.
- The Yucca Mountain project was cancelled by the Obama administration in 2010 before the hearings could be scheduled.
In June, the Trump Administration’s budget requested $120 million for the Department of Energy to support the completion of the licensing process for Yucca Mountain and $30 million for NRC activities related to Yucca Mountain.
The budget has not been approved and the funds have not been appropriated, but the NRC is nonetheless using existing funds to smooth the path in the event that the funds are available to revive Yucca Mountain.
After the nuclear waste repository was cancelled, an appeals court in 2012 ruled that the NRC could use $13 million in unexpended monies from the nuclear waste fund. Most of that money was used in completing safety evaluations necessary for Yucca Mountain. The NRC then wrapped up its Yucca Mountain work and many staff members on the project were let go.
The next step in the approval process would have been for the NRC to hold hearings on the 300 contentions that have been filed regarding Yucca Mountain.
NRC has about $634,000 of the $13 million left. The agency has now directed staff to use $110,000 to make preparations for the hearings, so that it would be able to move quickly if the budgetary funding for the repository is approved by Congress.
The $110,000 will be used to revive the public access database and make the 4 million supporting documents available to hearing participants, and to find a Nevada site for hearings. The NRC plans to hold a virtual meeting on that preparatory process.
A bill that would change some of the specifications for Yucca Mountain, HR 3053, was reported out of committee in late June, and is now “collecting sponsors,” according to a spokesman for Rep. John Shimkus (R) of Illinois, one of the sponsors.
Yucca Mountain still faces stiff opposition in Nevada.
Follow Peter Maloney on Twitter