Lawmakers Ask NRC to Request Yucca Mountain Funding

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By Rebecca Kern

Sept. 9 — Members of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to include funding to review a license for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in its fiscal year 2017 budget request, but half of the commissioners said they wouldn't support such a request.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said during a Sept. 9 Energy and Power subcommittee oversight hearing that it would be helpful for the NRC to include a request for additional funding to continue its review of the contentious Yucca Mountain long-term fuel repository in Nevada.

Yet, when asked, both NRC Chairman Stephen Burns and NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran said they would not support asking for an additional $300 million to $330 million in congressional appropriations necessary to complete the review of the Yucca repository license application. Both NRC Commissioners Jeff Ostendorff and Kristine Svinicki said they would support such funding.

All four commissioners have to come to agreement on their annual budget request to Congress, Scott Burnell, NRC spokesman, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 9.

In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the NRC to resume its review of the Yucca Mountain application, which it began in 2008, using existing funds from previous appropriations.

Separately, in August 2015, the NRC completed a draft supplement to the Energy Department's 2008 environmental impact statement finding that the Yucca Mountain repository would have a small impact on the local groundwater.

Interim Waste Storage Solutions

Several members of the subcommittee supported pursuing interim storage solutions while the future of Yucca Mountain remains in limbo.

“Given the lack of status of Yucca Mountain, it might be prudent to consider some sort of interim storage solution,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).

Barton spoke to concerns about the storage of spent nuclear fuel remaining on the premises of decommissioned nuclear reactor plants, particularly since five more plants plan to be decommissioned this year.

“Given the fact that we're beginning to decommission these reactors, I don't think it's a good solution at all to have high level nuclear waste at a decommissioned nuclear reactor site,” Barton said.

All four commissioners said they support establishing interim storage solutions for nuclear waste.

The NRC has heard from two companies that are interested in submitting applications for review of their interim nuclear waste storage solutions. Waste Control Specialists LLC, a nuclear waste storage company, announced in February that it plans to submit an application to the NRC in April 2016 for a consolidated nuclear interim waste storage facility in Andrews County, Texas, with expectations for licensing and construction to be completed by December 2020.

Also, Holtec International, which develops dry cask storage solutions, and Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance LLC, a company owned by New Mexico’s Eddy and Lea counties and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobb, announced in May that they formed a partnership to build an interim nuclear storage facility in New Mexico. The companies have told the NRC they will submit an application, but they have not yet given a target date, David McIntyre, an NRC spokesman, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 9.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington at rkern@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com