A three-judge panel at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission revived plans for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump at least temporarily when it rejected the Department of Energy’s request to withdraw the application for the project.
The panel said the administration could not unilaterally reverse a process anchored in the 1982 law prescribing establishment of a nuclear waste disposal site.
“We deny DOE’s motion to withdraw the application,” the judges said in their order. “The Nuclear Waste Policy Act does not give the Secretary the discretion to substitute his policy for the one established by Congress.”
The Bush administration submitted the application for the Nevada site in 2008 after years of research and hearings. President Barack Obama, who said during his campaign that he was opposed to the Yucca Mountain projected, directed Energy Secretary Steven Chu to withdraw the application.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who is campaigning for reelection this year, has pledged to kill the project.
In response to the panel’s ruling, administration officials have the option of appealing the decision to the full commission and were expected to do so.
The project calls for burying spent nuclear fuel beneath a volcanic formation about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Critics have complained that the technology for such waste disposal is unproven. In addition, transporting the highly radioactive waste across the country could be dangerous, they say. Currently, most nuclear power plants reprocess their waste on site.
But some state and local officials complained that development of a national solution must continue or utility authorities might deny licenses to build new nuclear power plants. The promotion of nuclear power as a carbon-free alternative has led to a number of proposals for new construction.
The states of Washington and South Carolina, which have nuclear waste awaiting disposal, along with four counties in Nevada that would welcome the investment for the site, opposed the DOE’s effort to withdraw the application. The NRC panel of administrative judges held a hearing in Las Vegas on the issue earlier this month before handing down its ruling.
By. Darrell Delamaide for OilPrice.com