Closing Yucca Mountain: Litigation Associated with Attempts to Abandon the Planned Nuclear Waste Repository [March 4, 2011]   [open pdf - 260KB]

"Passed in 1982, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) was an effort to establish an explicit statutory basis for the Department of Energy (DOE) to dispose of the nation's most highly radioactive nuclear waste. The NWPA requires DOE to remove spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, in exchange for a fee, and transport it to a permanent geologic repository or an interim storage facility before permanent disposal. Defense-related high-level waste is to go into the same repository. In order to achieve this goal, and in an effort to mitigate the political difficulties of imposing a federal nuclear waste facility on a single community, Congress attempted to establish an objective, scientifically based multi-stage statutory process for selecting the eventual site of the nation's new permanent geologic repository. Congress amended the NWPA's site selection process in 1987, however, and designated Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the sole candidate site for the repository by terminating site specific activities at all other candidate sites. The Obama Administration, in conjunction with DOE, has taken three important steps directed toward terminating the Yucca Mountain project. First, the Administration's FY2011 budget proposal eliminated all funding for the Yucca Mountain project. Second, the President and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu established a Blue Ribbon Commission to consider alternative solutions to the nation's nuclear waste challenge. Third, and most controversial, DOE has attempted to terminate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding by seeking to withdraw the license application for the Yucca Mountain facility."

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CRS Report for Congress, R41675
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