Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Yucca Mountain Hearing Alert

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a full committee hearing on the Yucca Mountain Project this morning. For a path to all the details on this morning's hearing, as well as transcripts of witness testimony submitted for the record, click here.

Our CEO, Skip Bowman, submitted written testimony to the committee as well. Click here for a press release summarizing the key points. From our release:

Bowman said that DOE must make visible and measurable progress in implementing an integrated national management strategy for used reactor fuel. The department must address several issues to provide stability, clarity and predictability of the nation's used fuel policy and conditions must be in place for near-term movement of used nuclear fuel, assurance of transportation safety and security, and licensing and construction of the repository planned for the Nevada desert 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The industry's policy priorities for meeting this obligation are:
  • DOE is eight years in arrears of meeting its legal responsibility to manage used nuclear fuel and should move fuel to a secure federal facility as soon as practicable. The failure to do so already is subject of more than 60 lawsuits. Three of these suits, representing a fraction of reactor sites, have resulted in settlements or judgments of $340 million.
  • The nation's policymakers must be confident that policies are in place to ensure the safe and secure storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel. Managing the nation's used nuclear fuel is a firmly established federal obligation and, as such, is a matter of broad national policy. Therefore, Congress should codify its confidence that nuclear waste can be managed safely.
  • The congressional process for funding DOE'’s used fuel management program should be changed so that fees paid to the nuclear waste trust fund can be used as needed. Under the current system, funding for the Yucca Mountain project must compete with other programs despite a dedicated source of revenue ($750 million annually) to pay for the program.
  • Artificial constraints on the repository capacity should be eliminated. Although the statutory limit for Yucca Mountain is 70,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU), the environmental impact statement projected a capacity of up to 120,000 MTU. Additional scientific analyses show that four to nine times the original fuel disposal capacity could be achieved without major changes to the repository design.
  • Federal licensing for the repository should be restructured so that the process is prioritized by four areas: construction of the repository; facilities such as a rail line and other infrastructure that can be developed before a decision on the construction license; authorization to receive fuel; and clarification of the regulations that apply to repository construction and operation and which agencies administer those regulations.
More, including a link to download Skip Bowman's complete testimony, later.

UPDATE: Here's the link to Skip Bowman's (NEI president and CEO)testimony.

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