DOE Told to Finish Job at Yucca Mountain


"DOE must follow through on waste-disposal plan specified by Congress."

Yucca Mountain facility set to reopenThe Yucca Mountain project looks close to resurrection after the Department of Energy (DOE) was told that it must follow through on the waste-disposal plan as specified by Congress.

Back in 1982 Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which was meant to give America a solid policy for the final disposal of its high-level wastes from military, research and power generation activities. For the power business this means used fuel from nuclear power plants. The program progressed to look for two waste disposal sites—one in the West and one in the East - until another act of Congress in 2002 directed the Department of Energy to only consider the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

At that point, great opposition arose in the state, which seemed to have succeeded in shelving Yucca Mountain when President Barack Obama came to power in 2009 declaring that Yucca Mountain was "not an option." Obama's energy secretary Stephen Chu soon filed to withdraw the application to build the facility, cut funding and abandoned the entire program in search of a better one. The DOE has claimed Yucca Mountain is "not workable" and that "alternatives will better serve the public interest."

Now, the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has told the DOE it had no right to substitute its own ideas in place of those legislated by Congress. The DOE and the NRC are bound by law to complete their work at Yucca Mountain unless Congress acts to supersede the previous legislation. The DOE move to withdraw the application was rejected by the ASLB. "Unless Congress directs otherwise, the DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the application. The DOE's motion must, therefore, be denied."

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