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:
The Fiscal Year 2019 Department of Energy Budget (April 12, 2018)
Fiscal Year 2019 Nuclear Regulatory Commission Budget (March 20, 2018)
H.R.___, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 (April, 26, 2017)
Fiscal Year 2017 Nuclear Regulatory Commission Budget (April 20, 2016)
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)
The NRC FY 2015 Budget and Policy Issues (May 7, 2014)
Oversight of NRC Management and the Need for Legislative Reform (December 12, 2013)
NRC Policy and Governance Oversight (July 24, 2012)
Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (February 1, 2012)
#SubEnvironment and #SubEnergy Reviews 2019 NRC Budget Request (March 20, 2018)
#SubEnergy & #SubEnvironment to Review NRC’s 2019 Budget Request (March 13, 2018)
Energy and Commerce Advances Eight Bills (June 28, 2017)
#SubEnvironment Advances Three Bills to the Full Committee (June 15, 2017)
#SubEnvEcon to Hear from Nevada Stakeholders on Yucca Mountain (June, 30, 2016)
#SubEnvEcon & #SubEnergyPower Scrutinize NRC Budget Request (April 20, 2016)
#SubEnvEcon Examines Budgetary Issues of Nuclear Waste Fund (December 3, 2015)
#SubEnvEcon Examines Disposal of Low-Level Waste (October 28, 2015)
#SubEnvEcon Examines Transportation of Nuclear Material (October 1, 2015)
#SubEnvEcon to Examine Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel (September 24, 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)
OPINION: Chicago Tribune Editorial: Harry Reid vs Yucca Mountain (November 3, 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)
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)
Congress Working to Boost Funding for Yucca Mountain (July 9, 2013)
NRC Commissioners Pledge Commitment to Collegiality and Safety (July 24, 2012)
Senator Reid, What About Yucca Mountain? (June 7, 2012)
Upton and Shimkus Comment on Blue Ribbon Nuclear Report (July 29, 2011)
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)
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)
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)
Letter to DOE Secretary Chu Regarding Funding for Yucca Mountain (March 22, 2012)
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)
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: Chicago Tribune Editorial: Harry Reid vs. Yucca Mountain (November 3, 2014)