NRC's Yucca Mountain Safety Report Is Key Licensing Milestone

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission today issued Volume 3 of the safety evaluation report developed as part of the license application review for the planned Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository for high-level radioactive waste. The following are comments from the Nuclear Energy Institute's president and chief executive officer, Marvin Fertel, on the NRC report.

"The Nuclear Energy Institute is pleased that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today issued Volume 3 of the long-awaited safety evaluation report for the Yucca Mountain repository license. This volume addresses the repository safety after permanent closure, and its issuance is a key milestone in the Yucca Mountain licensing process. This 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 nation's defense program.

"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. However, the next phase of licensing, which involves hearings on challenges to the license application, requires additional congressional funding and the active engagement of the Department of Energy. Therefore, we strongly urge Congress to appropriate, in fiscal 2015 and future years, the necessary funding for the NRC and the DOE to complete the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding. We also strongly urge the Obama administration to direct the Department of Energy 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.

"DOE should immediately begin re-establishing a program to support the Yucca Mountain project and the licensing process, given that its Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management was closed in 2010. The United States must have a viable program for the long-term management and disposal of high-level radioactive waste from our nation's defense program and commercial used nuclear fuel. While that fuel—totaling more than 72,000 metric tons—is safely and securely stored at 74 sites in 34 states, licensing the Yucca Mountain project is a key part of such a program. 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.

"The failure of the DOE to meet its contractual obligation to begin disposing of used nuclear fuel by January 31, 1998, costs the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars a year in damage payments. DOE's own estimate is that as of September 2013, approximately $3.7 billion has been paid in damages from the taxpayer-funded Judgment Fund. DOE expects that the ongoing liability for the federal government will increase by an additional $21.4 billion even if the DOE begins accepting used nuclear fuel in 2021, which is a virtual impossibility.

"As a result of the delay beyond 2021, the federal government's total liability can be assumed to be considerably greater than the estimated $25.1 billion. The billions in contract damages are paid out of the Judgment Fund. Those payments are in addition to the $20 billion that nuclear electric consumers already have paid on their monthly electric bills into the Nuclear Waste Fund expressly for the disposal of used nuclear fuel. The Nuclear Waste Fund currently has a balance in excess of $30 billion, including interest and expenses to date.

"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. 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."

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Source:Nuclear Energy Institute