NRC’S ASLB DECISION: 234 days AND COUNTING

October 30, 2014
Nuclear Townhall
 
As the legendary CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite might have put it:
 
And that’s the way it is, Thursday, October 30, 1584 days into captivity of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision on its review of the Atomic Safety Licensing Board’s unanimous rejection of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain project license withdrawal request.
 
In a process that has been defined by days and even hours for the most part, it is now 1584 days and counting since the ASLB’s June 29 ruling and the initiation of the Commission’s review of the lower panel’s decision. The full Commission, which has now had the matter under consideration over parts of six calendar months, has more than trebled the 39 days it initially provided to the ASLB to sift through considerably more complicated issues.  Meanwhile the U.S. Court of Appeals, which was scheduled to begin oral arguments on September 23 on an avalanche of legal contentions now filed on the Yucca Mountain issue, has put a hold on the proceedings awaiting a Commission determination.
 
Notwithstanding the NRC Commission impasse, on September 30, the U.S. Department of Energy closed the doors of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, which is responsible for the license application.  Just days later, perhaps putting the cart before the horse, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko ordered the agency’s review of the Yucca Mountain license application stopped.  The handling of the latter matter is now under scrutiny by Jaczko’s own Inspector General and is expected to be the subject of oversight hearings by the U.S. House of Representatives in the next Congress.
 
Meanwhile, what is known at this point is that all four Commission votes are filed with Commissioner Kristine Svinicki recording hers on August 25; Jaczko was last in on October 29 in a maneuver seen by some as a delaying action to ensure that a possible affirmation of the ASLB decision would not surface in the re-election contest of mentor and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who ultimately prevailed in a hard-fought campaign.  Commissioner George Apostolakis has recused himself from the issue.
 
No Commission affirmation session, which would codify any Commission verdict, is slated for this week, according to longtime NRC watchers.
 
As Walter Cronkite might have also put it:  
 
Stay tuned to this channels for further updates.

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  • Brian O’Connell

    It is sad to observe the tortorous attempt by the chairman of the NRC to avoid recognition that the ASLB order of June 29 denying the DOE request to withdraw the license application from the NRC review process was based on a correct reading of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and amendments, including the 2002 Joint Resolution of Congress that Yucca Mountain is the approved site for disposal of high-level radioactive waste subject to obtaining the NRC license. Is there anyone who does not recall that a condition of Chairman Jaczko’s appointment and confirmation to serve on the Commission was that he was to recuse himself for one year from any matters before the Commission pertaining to Yucca? That time has passed but the basis for the recusal has not. It is not to late to show that he trusts the matter to his fellow commissioners to make the decision without him.

  • Brian O’Connell

    It is sad to observe the tortorous attempt by the chairman of the NRC to avoid recognition that the ASLB order of June 29 denying the DOE request to withdraw the license application from the NRC review process was based on a correct reading of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and amendments, including the 2002 Joint Resolution of Congress that Yucca Mountain is the approved site for disposal of high-level radioactive waste subject to obtaining the NRC license. Is there anyone who does not recall that a condition of Chairman Jaczko’s appointment and confirmation to serve on the Commission was that he was to recuse himself for one year from any matters before the Commission pertaining to Yucca? That time has passed but the basis for the recusal has not. It is not to late to show that he trusts the matter to his fellow commissioners to make the decision without him.