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Yucca Mountain


Background:
Thirty years ago, Congress began addressing concerns regarding the management of the nation’s growing stockpile of nuclear waste by directing the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a system to collect and provide for the safe and final disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 requires DOE to take title to, remove, and transport spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactor sites to a permanent geologic repository or interim monitored retrievable storage facility before permanent disposal. After years of scientific study, Yucca Mountain was shown to be the most promising site. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office estimated that nearly $15 billion has been spent toward development of a nuclear waste repository.

Yucca Mountain Timeline:
In 1987, Congress directed DOE to proceed with site characterization of Yucca Mountain for potential future development as the nation’s permanent repository.

In 1987, after DOE conducted studies of nine potential sites, Congress selected the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada as the only site for further study for the first national repository of high level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.

In 2002, following extensive characterization of the site by DOE, its national laboratories, and many universities, the Secretary of Energy determined that Yucca Mountain was suitable for repository development and recommended the president approve the site for development. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), Nevada submitted a notice of disapproval, but Congress overturned it by an overwhelming bipartisan majority: 306-117 in the House and 60-39 in the Senate. The president subsequently signed it, Public Law 107-200, affirming selection of Yucca Mountain for development as a permanent repository.

On June 3, 2008, DOE submitted to NRC a license application to construct the Yucca Mountain repository. Following the 2008 docketing of the application, the NRC then commenced a two-pronged review of the application: (1) A technical licensing review by the NRC staff to assess the technical merits of the repository design and to formulate a position on whether to issue a construction authorization for the repository, and (2) adjudicatory hearings by the NRC’s Construction Authorization Board to consider technical and legal challenges to the application. The Commission, based on a staff Safety Evaluation Report and the Board hearings, is to determine whether to authorize construction of the repository based solely on the technical merits. The Safety Evaluation Report (SER) documents the staff’s assessment of the technical merits of the repository design.

In 2010, despite Congress’ continued bipartisan support for Yucca Mountain, the Obama administration decided to terminate the project, attempting to withdraw DOE’s license application from the NRC’s review. The Secretary of Energy asserted that “a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain is not a workable option for long-term disposition” of nuclear waste, and DOE filed a motion with the NRC’s Construction Authorization Board to withdraw the license application.

On June 29, 2010, the Board denied the DOE motion to withdraw the application.

On October 1, 2010, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko directed the NRC staff to begin the “orderly closure” of its Yucca Mountain activities, including terminating work on the outstanding volumes of the Safety Evaluation Report (SER).

On September 9, 2011, the Construction Authorization Board’s decision denying withdrawal of the application was upheld by the Commission on a tie vote, failing to reach the majority necessary to overturn the Board’s decision.

On August 13, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision granting a writ of mandamus, and directing the NRC to resume its license application review.

On November 18, 2013, the Commission voted to resume the license application review using remaining resources and directing staff to complete the SER.

On October 16, 2014, the NRC released Volume III of the Safety Evaluation Report, which concluded that the Department of Energy’s license application meets the long-term nuclear waste repository regulatory and safety requirements, including that Yucca Mountain would remain safe for one million years.

On January 29, 2015, the NRC released the final volumes of the Safety Evaluation Report for Yucca Mountain.

Hearings & Markups:

2018

The Fiscal Year 2019 Department of Energy Budget (April 12, 2018)

Fiscal Year 2019 Nuclear Regulatory Commission Budget (March 20, 2018)

2017

Energy and Commerce Committee Vote on H.R. 3043, H.R. 2786, H.R. 3050, H.R. 2883, H.R. 2910, H.R. 3017, H.R. 3053, and H.R. 806 (June 28, 2017)

Subcommittee Vote on H.R. 806, H.R.__, Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment, and Reauthorization Act of 2017, and H.R.__, Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 (June 15, 2017)

H.R.___, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 (April, 26, 2017)

2016

Federal, State, and Local Agreements and Associated Benefits for Spent Nuclear Fuel Disposal (July 7, 2016)

Fiscal Year 2017 Nuclear Regulatory Commission Budget (April 20, 2016)

2015

The Nuclear Waste Fund: Budgetary, Funding, and Scoring Issues (December 3, 2015)

Update on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Issues (October 28, 2015)

Transporting Nuclear Materials: Design, Logistics, and Shipment (October 1, 2015)

Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (September 9, 2015)

Update on the Current Status of Nuclear Waste Management Policy (May 15, 2015)

2014

The NRC FY 2015 Budget and Policy Issues (May 7, 2014)

2013

Oversight of NRC Management and the Need for Legislative Reform (December 12, 2013)

Oversight of DOE’s Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste (July 31, 2013)

2012

NRC Policy and Governance Oversight (July 24, 2012)

Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (February 1, 2012)

2011

NRC Repository Safety Division – Staff Perspective on Yucca License Review (June 24, 2011)

The NRC Inspector General Report on the ‘NRC Chairman’s Unilateral Decision to Terminate NRC’s Review of the DOE Yucca Mountain Repository License Application (June 14, 2011)

The Department of Energy’s Role in Managing Civilian Radioactive Waste (June, 1 2011)

The Role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in America’s Energy Future (May 4, 2011)

 

Press Releases:

2018

#SubEnergy Hosts DOE Secretary Perry to Talk DOE Budget and its Role in the 21st Century (April 12, 2018)

#SubEnvironment and #SubEnergy Reviews 2019 NRC Budget Request (March 20, 2018)

#SubEnergy & #SubEnvironment to Review NRC’s 2019 Budget Request (March 13, 2018)

ICYMI: This Week #SubEnvironment Chiarman Shimkus Led a Special Order on Nuclear Waste (March 7, 2018)

2017

ICYMI: Energy & Commerce Members Highlight Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (June 28, 2017)

Energy and Commerce Advances Eight Bills (June 28, 2017)

MARKUP: Energy and Commerce to Consider Eight Bills to Modernize Energy Infrastructure and Environmental Laws (June 26, 2017)

#SubEnvironment Advances Three Bills to the Full Committee (June 15, 2017)

THURSDAY: #SubEnvironment to Markup Three Bills to Modernize Nation’s Environmental Laws and Infrastructure (June 13, 2017)

#SubEnergy Chairman Upton and #SubEnvironment Chairman Shimkus Comment on GAO’s Yucca Mountain Report (May 26, 2017)

#SubEnvironment Examines Legislation Related to the Nation’s Nuclear Waste Management (April 26, 2017)

#SubEnvironment to Examine Legislative Discussion Draft Related to Nation’s Nuclear Waste Management (April 19, 2017)

2016

#SubEnvEcon Hears from Nevada Stakeholders on Yucca Mountain and Spent Nuclear Fuel Disposal (July 7, 2016)

#SubEnvEcon to Hear from Nevada Stakeholders on Yucca Mountain (June, 30, 2016)

#SubEnvEcon & #SubEnergyPower Scrutinize NRC Budget Request (April 20, 2016)

Committe Leaders Press DOE’s Moniz on Plans to Restart Yucca Mountain Project (March 17, 2016)

Committee Leaders Send Letter to Nonpartisan Watchdog on DOE Yucca Mountain Restart Plans (February 29, 2016)

2015

#SubEnvEcon Examines Budgetary Issues of Nuclear Waste Fund (December 3, 2015)

#SubEnvEcon Examines Disposal of Low-Level Waste (October 28, 2015)

NEXT WEEK: #SubEnvEcon to Examine Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Issues (October 21, 2015)

#SubEnvEcon Examines Transportation of Nuclear Material (October 1, 2015)

#SubEnvEcon to Examine Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel (September 24, 2015)

#SubEnvEcon Gets an Update on the Nation’s Nuclear Waste Policy (May 15, 2015)

The House Continues to Stand Up for Yucca Mountain (May 1, 2015)

Upton and Pallone Question DOE Over Nuclear Waste Split (April 14, 2015)

“30 years, $15 billion of an investment” (April 13, 2015)

A Trip to Yucca Mountain (April 10, 2015)

Shimkus to Lead Bipartisan Delegation to Yucca Mountain (April 2, 2015)

Committee Leaders Respond to DOE’s Nuclear Waste Delay (March 24, 2015)

Shimkus Applauds Completion of Yucca Safety Evaluation Report (January 29, 2015)

2014

OPINION: Chicago Tribune Editorial: Harry Reid vs Yucca Mountain (November 3, 2014)

Upton and Shimkus Welcome Release of Game-Changing Yucca Mountain Safety Report (October 16, 2014)

Shimkus: Yucca Mountain Should Move Forward (May 19, 2014)

Shimkus Comments on Nuclear Waste Fee Cessation (May 15, 2014)

NRC Commissioners Testify on Budget and Policy Issues (May 7, 2014)

2013

Subcommittees Continue Oversight of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (December 12, 2013)

Committee Leaders Press Moniz on Plans to Comply with Nuclear Waste Court Orders (December 11, 2013)

Shimkus Comments on Court Decision to Zero Out Nuclear Waste Fee (November 19, 2013)

Long-Term Repository Needed As Nuclear Waste Continues to Pile Up (October 13, 2013)

Following Court Ruling, Committee Leaders Invite NRC Chairman Macfarlane to Testify, Seek Progress Reports on Yucca License Review (August 23, 2013)

Energy and Commerce Leaders Welcome Court’s Decision Compelling NRC to Resume Consideration of Yucca Mountain License Application (August 13, 2013)

Subcommittee Presses DOE Secretary Moniz on Strategy For Nuclear Waste Storage (July 31, 2013)

Congress Working to Boost Funding for Yucca Mountain (July 9, 2013)

Committee Leaders Seek GAO Analysis of Taxpayer Cost and Liability Effects of DOE’s Nuclear Waste Storage Proposal (April 25, 2013)

An Unhappy Anniversary: With 15 Years of Broken Promises, Nuclear Waste and Liability Costs Continue to Pile Up (January 31, 2013)

Blue Ribbon Commission Calls for Permanent Nuclear Repository By 2048… What About Yucca Mountain? (January 11, 2013)

2012

NRC Commissioners Pledge Commitment to Collegiality and Safety (July 24, 2012)

Senator Reid, What About Yucca Mountain? (June 7, 2012)

Strong Bipartisan Majority Approves Funding Boost for Yucca Mountain License Review (June 6, 2012)

2011

NRC Finally Tallies Votes on Yucca Mountain License Review; DOE Motion to Withdraw Application is Denied (September 9, 2011)

400 Days and Still No Decision on NRC Atomic Safety Board Yucca Vote – Chairman Jaczko Continues Stonewalling Tally of 5 Votes (August 3, 2011)

Upton and Shimkus Comment on Blue Ribbon Nuclear Report (July 29, 2011)

Upton & Shimkus Ask, “Where Are the Findings?” Following NRC’s Incomplete Release of Long Overdue Yucca Evaluation (July 21, 2011)

Upton & Shimkus Press NRC Chairman for Answers On Yucca Mountain Safety Report (July 8, 2011)

Court Ruling Underscores Urgent Need for NRC to Complete Action on Yucca Application (July 1, 2011)

NRC Scientists Reveal Unprecedented Dysfunction Among Commission’s Leadership (June 24, 2011)

E&C Studio Presents: Bipartisan Outrage Over Obama Administration Termination of Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository (June 16, 2011)

NRC Inspector General Testifies on Nuclear Chief’s Strategic Manipulation of Yucca Mountain Project (June 15, 2011)

ICYMI: NRC chief in hot seat for scrapping work on Yucca Mountain dump (June 13, 2011)

ICYMI: Investigation Reveals Political Manipulation by Administration Officials in Yucca Mountain Shutdown (June 10, 2011)

Bombshell Testimony Reveals Energy Secretary Ignored Technical Experts When Withdrawing Yucca Mountain Application (June 8, 2011)

Members Press Obama Administration on Failed Commitment to Store Nation’s Nuclear Waste (June 1, 2011)

Energy and Commerce Committee Launches Investigation into Administration’s Efforts to Pull the Plug on Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository (May 31, 2011)

Upton & Shimkus Comment on Obama’s Anywhere but Yucca Mountain Panel – “This Administration Should Be Listening to the Nuclear Scientists, Not Political Scientists” (May 13, 2011)

Government Report Finds Obama Administration’s Haste to Terminate Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository Could Set Back Effort 20 Years (May 9, 2011)

Energy and Commerce Committee Members Question NRC Commissioners on Fate of Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository (May 4, 2011)

Energy and Commerce Committee Members Shimkus, Green, and Burgess Embark on Trip to Yucca Mountain (April 25, 2011)

Energy and Commerce Committee Launches Investigation into Administration’s Efforts to Pull the Plug on Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository (March 31, 2011)

CBS EVENING NEWS Examines Yucca Mountain—“Shut Down, Locked Up, Caught Up in What Critics Charge is Nothing More than Pure Politics” (March 31, 2011)

Energy & Commerce Leaders Press Energy Dept. on Yucca Mountain, Status of Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Collected for Disbanded Project (February 24, 2011)

Letters:

2017

Letter from Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry Regarding Taxpayer Liability Costs (November 14, 2017)

Letter from Department of Energy Secretary Perry Regarding Nuclear Waste Fee Status (October 2, 2017)

Letter to Department of Energy Secretary Perry on Nuclear Waste Fee Status (August 21, 2017)

Letter to Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry Regarding Taxpayer Liability Costs (August 21, 2017)

Letter from Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry Regarding Nuclear Waste Management Policy (April 25, 2017)

Letter to Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry Regarding Nuclear Waste Management Policy (March 20, 2017)

2016

Letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on Yucca Mountain Restart Plans (March 17, 2016)

Letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro on DOE’s nuclear waste repository program (February 29, 2016)

2015

Letter to DOE Secretary Moniz on DOE Interim Storage Facilities (July 30, 2015)

Letter to DOE Secretary Moniz Regarding Nuclear Waste (April 14, 2015)

Letter to DOE Secretary Moniz Regarding Yucca Mountain (February 25, 2015)

2014

Letter from DOE on Implementation of Yucca Mountain Court Decisions (January 6, 2014)

Letter to DOE Regarding Yucca Mountain License Review (August 26, 2014)

Letter to NRC Regarding Yucca Mountain License Review (August 23, 2014)

2013

Letter to DOE on Implementation of Yucca Mountain Court Decisions (December 11, 2013)

Letter to GAO Regarding DOE’s Nuclear Waste Storage Proposal (April 25, 2013)

Letter to DOE Regarding Yucca Mountain License Review (August 26, 2013)

Letter to NRC Regarding Yucca Mountain License Review (August 23, 2013)

2012

Letter to DOE Secretary Chu Regarding Funding for Yucca Mountain (March 22, 2012)

2011

Letter to NRC regarding Yucca Mountain Investigation (July 8, 2011)

Letter to NRC Regarding Yucca Mountain Investigation (May 9, 2011)

Letter to DOE launching investigation into Yucca Mountain closure (March 31, 2011)

Letter to NRC launching investigation into Yucca Mountain closure (March 31, 2011)

Op-eds:

2017

OPINION: Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board: WIPP filling its role and more, unlike Yucca Mt. (September 13, 2017)

OPINION: LA Times Editorial: There’s no great answer for nuclear waste, but almost anything is better than perching it on the Pacific (September 11, 2017)

OPINION: Rep. Mimi Walters in The Orange County Register: Taking Responsibility for spent nuclear fuel (July 15, 2017)

OPINION: Chairman Greg Walden, Energy Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, and Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus in Morning Consult: Getting the Nation’s Nuclear Waste Disposal Back on Track (June 28, 2017)

OPINION: Chairman Greg Walden in the La Grande Observer: Want to clean up Hanford? (June 28, 2017)

OPINION: Rep. Bill Flores & Rep Gene Green in Houston Chronicle: U.S. must better manage nuclear waste storage (June 26, 2017)

OPINION: Rep. Buddy Carter & Rep. Joe Wilson in The Augusta Chronicle: Nuclear waste of time (June 26, 2017)

OPINION: Chairman Greg Walden in East Oregonian: Want to clean up Hanford? Finish Yucca Mountain (June 26, 2017)

OPINION: Chicago Tribune Editorial: Revive Yucca Mountain: Illinois has more nuclear waste than any other state, all of it in temporary storage (April 11, 2017)

2014

OPINION: Chicago Tribune Editorial: Harry Reid vs. Yucca Mountain (November 3, 2014)

OPINION: Rep. John Shimkus in Roll Call: On Yucca Mountain, Obama Again Treats Law as Merely a Suggestion (March 27, 2014)

2013

OPINION: Reps. Fred Upton and John Dingell in Legal Times “Decision on Yucca Mountain Overdue” (July 8, 2013)

OPINION: Rep. John Shimkus in the Chicago Tribune: Yucca Mountain is the Fastest, Best, and Most Viable Solution (June 5, 2013)

2011

OPINION: Rep. John Shimkus in POLITICO: U.S. needs nuclear storage site (April 15, 2011)