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NRC releases report on Yucca Mtn.
by Ken Ritter - Associated Press
Jul 22, 2011 | 1519 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report Thursday documenting decades of scientific and technical work on a dormant nuclear waste repository project in Nevada, but it makes no conclusions about whether entombing the nation’s most radioactive material in the desert northwest of Las Vegas is scientifically sound or safe.

The federal oversight agency released a statement acknowledging that the 733-page technical evaluation includes no findings about whether the proposed Yucca Mountain repository meets regulatory requirements. It promised two more volumes before Sept. 30.

Nevada’s top state official working to stop the Yucca Mountain project pointed to that date as the last day of the federal government’s fiscal year and noted that federal money for the stalled project has been drying up.

Joseph Strolin, interim chief of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, labeled the report the product of “bias and inappropriate collusion” between federal nuclear regulators, Energy Department proponents, and scientists and contractors paid to plan and build the repository since the mid-1980s. Energy companies have also been waiting for the government to make good on a pledge to accept and dispose of the nation’s spent nuclear reactor fuel.

“There’s no legal requirement for this,” Strolin said after an initial review of the report with state officials and lawyers working to block the Yucca project. “My impression is this is a creation of NRC staff frustrated and angry at not being able to finish their life’s work.”

Strolin noted the report contained no answers to more than 200 technical challenges Nevada still has pending in the stalled NRC Yucca Mountain licensing process.

NRC officials in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to messages about the report. It is titled “Technical Evaluation Report on the Content of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain Repository License Application; Postclosure Volume: Repository Safety After Permanent Closure.”

The NRC’s statement described it as “part of the agency’s orderly closeout of the Yucca Mountain license review process” and said it was “intended as a public record of the staff’s scientific and technical work.”

Officials say more than $15 billion has been spent developing plans for Yucca Mountain since Congress in 1982 directed the Energy Department to study whether the ancient volcanic ridge was a good place for a repository. Plans call for entombing some 77,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel that’s now stored at power plants and research facilities around the country.

President George W. Bush gave the go-ahead for the Yucca waste repository in 2002.

But opponents have continued to raise concerns about air, water and soil contamination. Nevada state officials and attorneys argue that the technology for storing radioactive material isn’t fully proved, and that transporting waste to Nevada poses more risk than leaving it where it is.

The states of Washington and South Carolina, plus Aiken County, S.C., the Prairie Island Indian Community of Minnesota, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners want the NRC to order the project to proceed. They argue that Congress promised a place to put high-level radioactive waste from sites including the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington and the Savannah River site in South Carolina.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has remained a staunch foe of the Yucca project, and President Barack Obama reached the White House after promising to kill it.

Obama cut off funding and promoted former Reid aide Gregory Jaczko to NRC chairman in 2009.

After an independent licensing board last year rejected the Obama administration’s request to withdraw the project application, Jaczko instructed NRC staff to stop work on critical safety questions about possible groundwater contamination 10,000 years in the future and radiation releases for a million years.

Jaczko has yet to schedule a final vote on the matter by the five-member nuclear commission.
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