NRC Commissioners Set Course for Yucca Mountain

In a decision issued today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission charted a course responding to the D.C. Circuit’s writ of mandamus directing the agency to resume the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain repository. The Commission’s decision directs actions that are possible given the agency’s remaining resources (about $11 million) for work reviewing the high-level waste repository application. It defers activities such as resumption of the adjudicatory proceeding, citing the agency’s inability “to make meaningful or substantial progress on these fronts” at this time.

Most notably the Commission directed the NRC Staff to complete and issue the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) associated with the construction authorization application. When the Yucca Mountain licensing process was halted, the unpublished SER volumes were rumored to be near complete; now, the Staff estimates that it will take 12 months to complete and issue the SER. In any event a completed SER will provide an important assessment on the proposed repository and site.

The Commission also requested that the Department of Energy prepare the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the NRC Staff determined was necessary under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Commission also declined to reconstitute the Licensing Support Network (LSN), instead directing the NRC Secretary to load the LSN documents into the non-public portion of the agency’s document management system (ADAMS). Should the NRC have remaining funds after completion of these directed activities, it will assess how to use those funds at that time.