Energy and Commerce Committee Launches Investigation into Administration's Efforts to Pull the Plug on Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository

March 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy today notified Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko that it is launching an investigation into the decision-making process to terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.  Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Environment and the Economy Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) are launching the inquiry after reviewing available evidence indicating there was no scientific or technical basis for withdrawing the application. In the wake of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan and uncertainty about the damaged nuclear reactors, Congress is demanding answers about the administration's decision to halt development of the only permanent U.S. site for spent nuclear fuel.

The development of the Yucca repository has been a costly and lengthy process.  The Government Accountability Office estimates that more than $14 billion has been spent on the Yucca Mountain repository since 1983, $9.5 billion of which has been directly collected from the public's electric bills. The Yucca project was nearing the finish line with DOE's submission of a construction license application, which NRC docketed for review in September 2008 and was scheduled to decide within four years (September 2012). The Energy Department is responsible for disposing of spent nuclear fuel and high level waste at 121 sites in 39 states.

Upton and Shimkus made the following statement:
"The tragic events unfolding in Japan underscore the urgent need for the United States to pursue a coherent nuclear policy to safely and permanently store spent nuclear fuel. The administration's move to shutter Yucca raises serious red flags. Despite the scientific community's seal of approval, extensive bipartisan collaboration, as well as nearly three decades and billions of taxpayer dollars spent, this administration has recklessly sought to pull the plug on the Yucca repository without even the sensibility of offering a viable alternative. Yucca Mountain must be featured prominently in our nuclear future - the stakes are too high for politics to interfere with the permanent and safe storage of spent nuclear fuel."

Click HERE to view the letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Click HERE to view the letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko