Members Urge NRC to Follow Board’s Ruling on Yucca Mountain

July 15, 2010

Members Urge NRC to Follow Board’s Ruling on Yucca Mountain

July 15, 2010

Chairman Gregory Jaczko
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
11555 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
 
Dear Chairman Jaczko:
 
We are writing to express our support of the June 29, 2010 decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (Board) to deny the Department of Energy’s (DOE) motion to withdraw the license application to construct a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
 
As clearly expressed in the Board’s decision, DOE does not have the authority to withdraw the license application simply as a matter of policy. At no point in DOE’s motion to withdraw did the agency fault any scientific or technical portions of the license application. This omission highlights the shaky grounds on which DOE rested its argument to shutter Yucca Mountain.
 
We agree with the Board’s observation that congressional intent was clear in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA). NWPA was specific with the associated procedures to prepare Yucca Mountain for waste storage. Congress did not pre-approve the license application; however, once the license application was initially submitted, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was required to consider it. Congress has repeatedly voted in support of locating a national high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain. DOE cannot short change proper examination of the repository because of political preferences.
 
The massive investment in both time and taxpayer dollars warrant proper consideration of the license application by the NRC. Over the course of thirty years, approximately $10 billion have been spent on Yucca Mountain. Throwing away this investment due to a campaign-pledge is not acceptable. Should the Commission overturn the Board’s decision, DOE and Congress will be forced to start anew to address spent fuel, which will only cost more taxpayer dollars, increase the government’s liability, and burden facilities that are currently storing waste on-site.
 
Further, we are concerned that some Commissioners have pre-judged the outcome of this decision. In their February 9, 2010 confirmation hearing, Senator Boxer, Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is the oversight committee of jurisdiction said, “I have a question here for all three of you from Senator Reid. You can just answer it yes or no. If confirmed, would you second guess the Department of Energy's decision to withdraw the license application for Yucca Mountain from NRC's review?” Commissioners Apostolakis, Magwood, and Ostendorff all answered “no.” We think it was an inappropriate commitment and as nominees, the commissioners should not have faced intense pressure both from Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Reid. The Commission should examine each case on its merits, rather than pre-judging an argument. We hope the entire Commission considers the Board’s decision in an objective manner.
 
Lastly, we call for the Commission to make all relevant documents related to DOE’s motion to withdraw public. Given the significant ramifications of DOE’s actions, it is in the public’s interest to be fully informed of the entire decision-making process.
 
With these thoughts in mind, we urge you to leave the Board’s decision in place.
 
Sincerely,

______________________                                                    ______________________
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.                                                    Bob Inglis
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress

______________________                                                    ______________________
Joe Wilson                                                                               Gresham Barrett
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress

______________________                                                    ______________________
Cathy McMorris Rodgers                                                       Doc Hastings
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress  

______________________                                                    ______________________
John Shimkus                                                                          Jo Bonner
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress

______________________                                                    ______________________
Donald Manzullo                                                                    Steven LaTourette
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress

______________________                                                    ______________________
Lee Terry                                                                                 Paul Broun
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress

______________________                                                    ______________________
Pete Olson                                                                               Dennis Rehberg
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress

Cc: Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki
      Commissioner George Apostolakis
      Commissioner William D. Magwood, IV
      Commissioner William C. Ostendorff
 
 


Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming - Republicans
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