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26 Organizations Voiced Support for Resumption of Yucca Mountain Review
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September 19, 2011

26 Organizations Voiced Support for Resumption of Yucca Mountain Review

By Madhubanti Rudra
TMCnet Contributor

In a demonstration of strong support for the resumption of the Yucca Mountain Project review, a group of industry leaders came together to convey their concern to the Senate.

According to a press release, 26 organizations -- which comprise a cross-section of energy consumers, regulators, elected officials, Native Americans and community entities and businesses---voiced their support for funding for the resumption of the Yucca Mountain Project review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and related licensing-support activities at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The U.S.’s nuclear history cannot be completed without the mention of debates over Yucca Mountain Review. It has been an attempt on the part of U.S. department of Energy to find a viable site for nuclear waste disposal. The Yucca Mountain Review Plan provided guidance for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff to evaluate a U.S. Department of Energy license application for a geologic repository. The principal purpose of the Yucca Mountain Review Plan was to ensure the quality, uniformity, and consistency of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff reviews of the license application and any requested amendments.

Nearly a decade ago, in the near absence of public debate, the DoE declared Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as the chosen venue for future repository of the nation’s nuclear waste.  The project was stalled in 2005, as a result of protest from various quarters. Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress that the Obama administration mayrevive the Yucca Mountain program and it would take two or three years for the Department of Energy to restart the repository project, terminated by President Barack Obama, Chu told members of a House subcommittee.

The 26 organizations that have written to the U.S. Senate expressing their support for the resumption of the Yucca Mountain project include the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Prairie Island Indian Community, U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council, Institute for 21st Century Energy, Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, U.S. Nuclear Energy Foundation and the Sustainable Fuel Cycle Task Force.

In the letter, the organizations, cited recent findings by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future and the Senate Appropriations Committee. It also brought attention to a July vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to restore funding for the review.

In the letter, the organizations emphasized on the urgency of working out commercial spent fuel and defense waste management program under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act> The organizations unanimously maintained that any further delay in this direction means  exacerbating taxpayer liability and diminishing confidence in resolution of this national concern.

“It is increasingly clear that termination of the Yucca Mountain license application without clear legal authority and without an alternative plan has proven to be premature and unwise as well as deleterious generally to the nation's energy independence, economic competitiveness and environmental progress, the letter mentioned.

“To this end, funding to facilitate resumption of the Yucca Mountain review in FY2012 - a site which heretofore has been found to be safe and viable and which is the highest confidence option currently available -- is strongly warranted,” it has been further added.

In the most recent development, a divided Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week, allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada.

In March last year, a coalition of leading national and regional organizations -- representing energy and individual taxpayers; state elected and regulatory officials; communities and energy-related businesses -- expressed vigorous support for the continuation of the Yucca Mountain repository program in letters to key Congressional appropriators. The group urged release of all documents associated with the Obama Administration's decision to cancel the program while advocating "immediate suspension" of payments to the Nuclear Waste Fund in the event the U.S. Congress agrees to implement the Department's termination request.

Madhubanti Rudra is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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