Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman (NRC) Allison Macfarlane told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy that regulators are moving "expeditiously" to comply with a court ruling that would allow the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository's license review process to continue.
The project, which seeks to find a long-term storage facility for spent fuel and other high-level nuclear waste, needs the NRC to weigh in on its safety if it is to proceed. In August 2013, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the NRC was wrongly delaying this process (click here to read that story).
Located in the mountains of Nevada about 100 miles from Las Vegas, the Yucca Mountain repository has been in development since 1987. During the Obama administration, the project was stripped of its funding and Congress has yet to authorize more funds to move it forward.
There is currently no permanent storage solution for the waste generated by the America's fleet of nuclear power plants. As a result, most power plants store their waste products on site. The Department of Energy is tasked with exploring alternative storage solutions for the nation's nuclear waste.
Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute's president and CEO, said the House panel's hearing sent the message that the NRC needs to act immediately to complete the Yucca Mountain safety evaluation reports.
"To date, four of the five reports that were anticipated have not been completed or published. It is crucial to the licensing process to know, via their completion, whether the [NRC] staff believes that the Energy Department's safety analysis for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository satisfies applicable regulatory requirements," Fertel said.
"The law requires the NRC review the Yucca Mountain license application, and consumers of electricity generated by America's 100 reactors deserve to know whether Yucca Mountain is a safe site for the permanent disposal of used nuclear fuel. They have contributed nearly $35 billion in fees and interest to the federal government specifically for used nuclear fuel management," he said.