Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spent Fuel and Political Waste

 Recent stories I neglected to get posted promptly:

  1. the courts cut off the flow of money from nuclear power companies until the Obama administration gets its act together on a repository
  2. the NRC suddenly resumes a review of the Yucca Mountain License application
So long as the federal government has no viable alternative to Yucca Mountain as a repository for nuclear waste, nuclear power ratepayers should not be charged an annual fee to cover the cost of that disposal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled on Tuesday.
Finding for petitioners that include the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the court ruled in its seven-page decision that because the Energy Secretary is “apparently unable” to conduct a legally adequate fee assessment, the Department of Energy (DOE) should call on Congress to change the fee to zero “until such a time as either the Secretary chooses to comply with the [Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA)] as it is currently written, or until Congress enacts an alternative waste management plan.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Monday directed agency staff to complete the long-delayed safety evaluation report (SER) for the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) license application to build the Yucca Mountain permanent waste repository.
Reflecting the Obama administration’s opposition to the repository, the DOE in 2010 withdrew from the NRC its June 2008–submitted application to license the Nevada facility and moved to terminate the project. The NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board had initially denied the motion, but under the direction of the commission, suspended the proceeding until there were sufficient funds—more than the unspent $11 million remaining in its Nuclear Waste Fund—to make “meaningful progress.”
But in a key decision this August, a divided three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit obliged the NRC, notwithstanding funding challenges, to comply with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, a law passed by Congress in 1983 and which provides the NRC “shall consider” the DOE’s license application to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. As the federal court pointed out, the law also calls on the NRC to “issue a final decision approving or disapproving” the application to store nuclear waste at the repository within three years of its submission–or extend the deadline by an additional year if it issues a written report explaining the reason for the delay.

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