NRC Head to Testify on Renewed Planning for Yucca Atomic Site

Nuclear Regulatory Commission file photo

Administration was ordered to complete a safety review of the potential nuclear waste repository.

House Republicans planned to grill the Obama administration on Tuesday about how it is heeding a recent court order to restart its review of the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste-storage project, Bloomberg reported.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane and Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Peter Lyons are scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill for the first time since a federal appeals court ruled on Aug. 13 that the NRC had to stop delaying a decision on building the atomic dump, and must either accept or reject a permit for it.

Congress was away from Washington on its summer recess when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Court of Columbia issued its order, which says the administration was "flouting the law" by not completing its safety review for the potential Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and the Economy Subcommittee is planning Tuesday’s hearing. Its chairman, Representative John Shimkus (R-Ill.), is expected to quiz Macfarlane about how the administration is complying with the court decision and how much money NRC needs to complete its study, according to Bloomberg. The agency currently has roughly $11 million, or 13 percent of its current budget, set aside for the project, the wire service reported.

House Republicans argue that current law clearly designates Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear-waste repository. Yet the Obama administration and Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the powerful Senate majority leader, both oppose the Nevada desert project.

The NRC said it will collect public comments during the month of September for its review.

The commission will review that input, along with "pertinent budgeting information" its staff gathers, during the 30-day comment period as it tries to determine "the path forward in the licensing process," the NRC said in an Aug. 30 press release.