Commission Sets Path Forward on Yucca Mountain

Dave McIntyre
Public Affairs Officer

The Commission today directed the NRC staff to finish the safety evaluation report (SER) for the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain construction authorization application. This direction is the agency’s response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which in August ordered us to resume work on the application using approximately $11 million in unspent money from the Nuclear Waste Fund.

yucca 2The Commission reached this decision after obtaining views from numerous parties involved in the licensing process as to how it should proceed.

By way of background, Yucca Mountain is the proposed repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste, a site selected by DOE at the direction of Congress. DOE submitted its license application in June 2008, but two years later withdrew it after the Obama administration decided not to pursue the project.

The NRC closed out its unfinished review of the Yucca Mountain application during Fiscal Year 2011. But a lot has happened since then, so it’s important to clarify what today’s action does and does not do.

The Order issued by the Commission today DOES:

• Direct the staff to complete and issue the SER left incomplete when the Yucca Mountain review was closed out;

• Direct the NRC Secretary and other agency staff to enter thousands of documents from the old Licensing Support Network (LSN) into the NRC’s ADAMS documents database so they will be available to the staff and eventually, assuming the availability of funding, to the public;

• Ask the Department of Energy to complete a supplement to its environmental impact statement on Yucca Mountain as the NRC staff found to be necessary back in 2008.

The Order DOES NOT:

• Direct the staff to reconstitute the LSN, which was dismantled in FY 2011;

• Restart the adjudicatory hearing on the application, which remains suspended;

• Signal that a licensing decision is imminent. Before a final licensing decision can be made, the adjudicatory hearing must be completed, and the Commission must perform its own review.

The Commission said it would consider the future of the LSN and the adjudicatory hearing once the tasks it directed today are completed and it can determine what tasks it can perform with whatever funds remain. The agency can only use money Congress has appropriated from the Nuclear Waste Fund for activities related to Yucca Mountain.

The SER is the key technical document of the NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain application. It was to be published in five volumes: Volume 1, essentially the introduction, was published in August 2010. Subsequent volumes were not completed before the review was shut down – they were eventually published as “technical evaluation reports,” which are less formal documents that don’t contain regulatory conclusions about the proposed repository.

Although a finished SER would contain those conclusions, it will not be equivalent to a licensing decision, as discussed above.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

22 thoughts on “Commission Sets Path Forward on Yucca Mountain”

  1. Issuing the SER is value doing, however the judicial writ directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue process while not the bounds obligatory by the Commission here. thus you’re making an attempt to be half-legal, that is as significant as being half-pregnant.

  2. Given NRC’s mission includes both safety and security responsibilities I am not sure characterizing Volume 1 of the SER as “essentially the introduction” is accurate given that it is the one place where NRC reviewed security aspects of the Yucca Mountain license application. Both the physical protection plan (Chapter 3) and the material control and accounting program (Chapter 4) were reviewed in SER Volume 1 (

  3. We very much welcome comments and discussion but they need to adhere to the comment guidelines, particularly being related to the post and not including personal attacks. If you wish to discuss a topic other than Yucca Mountain or spent fuel generally, please use the Open Forum section.


  4. Wrong, Cory.

    I – as in myself and every other extorted electric utility ratepayer – am paying $8.7M/yr. to the crony-infested DOE for their self-declared tax. It’s actually a small price to pay, considering that – even if the service was free – the DOE would do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons that had little to do with us peon radiation-absorption units *or* our safety. ‘The plant’, i.e. the utility, pays nothing and incurs NO risk – they never have and never will. You can ask any 87-year-old living in a cardboard box in a Fukushima gym today how much TEPCO has suffered.

    The burden is always passed on to all electric ratepayers whether they wanted or needed nuclear power. The only thing that tires me is the debate from either side about Yucca. Doing nothing is no longer an option. Being forced to chose between two bad choices is made all the worse by the debate. There is no ‘right’ decision at this point, except to export all power generation jobs to foreign countries and simply import the electricity. The AEC was never cost-effective, and nuclear was always a third-world-type power generation. The U.S. can no longer afford nuclear – not even with our fake accounting.

  5. And the factories and refineries are going to run through the night on your “excess” watts? Fortunately, like you said, it “ain’t your job” to come up with the answers.

  6. LOL, your argument if a false argument, based on irrelevance. They don’t have to provide continuous power. My house AND business runs on all its own power during the highest power consumption during the day, and has excess power to cover the night.

    It is a no brainer, it is basic, it is cheap, it is clean. And there is no evacuation zone, and no hundreds of years of after effects and cost, no DNA damage, no cancer, no disease, no lies.

  7. @stock, Nov. 19, 3:37pm

    Exactly NONE of which provide continuous power (except burning gas…at what price). All those pipedreams must first absorb power before they can release it. And you do not get all the MW back out that you put in. Pumped storage tops the field at 90% efficiency maximum…down to hydrogen generation at around 40%. And you forgot the rainbow dust.

  8. Rubbish. Loading a cask is not hazardous…I’ve loaded 11 of them, and I received a small percentage of my annual dose limit . It’s not the utilities delaying the opening of Yucca Mountain….it’s your federal government breaking the law. And everyone uses nuclear power, and hydro, and gas, and coal. It’s one big grid.

  9. Exactly….its like hey, if we wait 60 years that’s 2 half lives, so 75% will be gone, and our money will be in the stock market during that time….so EXTEND THE RISK, so corporations can make more money.

  10. It would be nice to see the rule of law return to our society and the way our government operates.

  11. typical reply of those stuck in the nuke mode…..its tricky, so lets just keep using these nuke plants that blow up in our face and kill countries.

    It ain’t my job to come up with the answers and smoothing out renewables, but there are plenty of answers to that and will vary depending on location, but to name a few, pumped hydro, hot salt systems, interconnected grids with the “stupid” controls removed (we don’t need a smart grid, we just need a non stupid grid), battery farms (esp good after Elec car market really gets going and old batteries can be put to pasture), peaking generation (nat gas is great at that), flywheels, and other stuff still to be invented.

    Rather than have our best and brightest spend time abusing atoms, why not put some brainpower into the REAL solutions to our future.

  12. The average 1100 MW plant is already paying in ~$8,700,000/year to the DOE to fulfill their contractual obligation to remove the spent fuel. This was supposed to occur in 1998. It’s 2013 and the plants are still paying in and still not receiving anything for their services. $1,000,000/year would be a serious downgrade.

  13. And replace 20% of the country’s baseload round-the-clock 365 days-a-year rain-or-shine power with WHAT exactly? Come back when you have some real answers….not the same old utopian dream of running everything on rainbow dust and unicorn milk.

  14. My thoughts
    The government only does what the lobbyist want done.
    The nuclear industry do not want to move the fuel because of the cost, they will claim it is a high health risk for their workers and the public. They are playing a delaying game and finding ways to put the blame on others. The nuclear industry has had 50+ years to solve the fuel waste storage problem, they ether do not want to or are not cable, if it is the later why are we allowing more plants. If it is that they are delaying it then charge each plant $1,000,000.00 a year until they solve it safely because the cost must be much higher then the reserve monies at hand. This will protect the people that have not used nuclear power from paying for something they did not use. Where will we be when the owners of these plants go bankrupt and there is not enough money to store and baby sit the fuel for thousands of years. Anyone is there another reason, please inform me.

  15. Other countries with nuclear plants have dealt responsibly with high level waste by safely storing spent, but still highly radioactive, fuel in safe off-site repositories. The US has not. As a result spent fuel has piled up in over a hundred different locations in the US (i.e. at existing nuke plant sites). Spent fuel pools have been overloaded way beyond their original design basis. As a result an aircraft crash into any of these sites would result in an accident equivalent to a Chernobyl or Fukushima. There is an established no fly zone around these vulnerable sites which I am sure terrorists will respect. The delays associated with Yucca Mountain have resulted in a huge security threat for our country.

  16. Salute: Well written and easy to understand!
    One suggestion would be to include links to the documents you mentioned above so that readers could find then easily without having to wade through the NRC ADAMS system…

  17. Issuing the SER is worth doing, but the court order directs the NRC to continue processing without the limits imposed by the Commission here. So you’re trying to be half-legal, which is as meaningful as being half-pregnant.

    Just complete the application processing. It’s the law.

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