Prior to the Obama administration’s rush to terminate the Yucca Mountain project, the landmark effort was nearing the finish line for full construction authorization with the Energy Department’s submission of a license application in June 2008. Federal law requires NRC to complete license review within four years at the latest. The GAO estimates that nearly $15 billion has been spent on research surrounding the Yucca Mountain repository since 1983, $9.5 billion of which has been directly collected from the public’s electric bills.
This week the NRC Inspector General testified on his office’s report that revealed damning evidence that NRC Chairman Jaczcko abused his legal authority by deliberately withholding key decision-making information related to Yucca Mountain from his fellow Commissioners and intentionally blocking issues for resolution that were long overdue.
During a separate hearing, witnesses revealed that Energy Secretary Steven Chu simply ignored the technical components of the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository when withdrawing the project’s license application. A recent Government Accountability Office report also found “social and political opposition to a permanent repository, not technical issues, is the key obstacle.” GAO also found termination will add to taxpayer burdens, by increasing the substantial liability costs for DOE’s failure to take custody of spent nuclear fuel. These costs presently amount to $15.4 billion if Yucca were to open as planned in 2020 and will increase by an estimated $500 million for each year delay after that.
The Energy and Commerce Committee continues to investigate DOE’s and NRC’s role in the shut down of Yucca Mountain and fight for a permanent solution to store the nation’s nuclear waste.