Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM
YUCCA MOUNTAIN: THE CURRENT SITUATION
The U.S. high-level radioactive waste program was crafted by deliberate Congressional actions. Congress was not only responsible for creation of these wastes, the disposal program was worked out in a bipartisan fashion with significant input, and concessions, from both Houses of Congress. There are historical aspects that are important to understanding the status of the program today: the Energy Reorganization Act created the process whereby the technical work was to be independently reviewed by experts; the Nuclear Waste Policy Act codified the steps to be followed in developing repositories; and Congress retained to itself the ultimate veto authority over siting decisions. Secretary Abraham carefully reviewed the science before recommending Yucca Mountain; Congress did not uphold Nevada’s Disapproval, and, in effect directed DOE to submit a license application to NRC. The license application was submitted and reviewed, but not all Safety Evaluation Reports were issued. Nevada has argued the license application is grossly inadequate. Some are predisposed to believe those arguments; fortunately, evidence exists to oppose those claims. The more difficult situation lies in the political realm, where actions taken by the Administration have led to the dismantlement of the program. Today, the legislatively mandated program has been suspended, not by Congress, who hold the legitimate authority, but by individuals. As a Senator, Mr. Obama said it is time to start exploring new alternatives … based on sound science, and promised to halt the Project. As President, Mr. Obama needed the support of Senate Majority Leader Reid and directed the cessation of the project without basis. By 2010, the President’s campaign promise and Mr. Reid’s role in controlling budgets effectively gave the state of Nevada the veto power that Congress, collectively, had denied the states. The DOE suspended all work on the program in 2010, yet today continues to collect the fees that are mandated to pay for the program. Without a repository, the underpinnings of Waste Confidence Decision are called into question. Lawsuits against the government have been filed for these situations. While the NRC has a program to develop an EIS to support the Waste Confidence Decision and allow the operation of reactors, Court actions have not been favorable for DOE.