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OCTOBER 30, 2010

In an October 27th letter responding to a query from Congressman “Doc” Hastings, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Natural Resources, NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff  put more distance between himself and beleaguered Chairman Gregory Jaczko by signaling his belief that the agency’s Yucca Mountain license application review is “required under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.”  Ostendorff added:  “I firmly believe that the Congress and the American public deserve to have the benefit of the information.  In fact, I believe the NRC is obligated to provide it.”

Yucca Mountain plaintiffs have argued in Commission and Federal Court filings that neither the NRC nor the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have the flexibility to arbitrarily discontinue the Yucca Mountain review under the federal law.  On June 29th, the NRC’s Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB) agreed — unanimously rejecting the DOE’s request to withdraw the Yucca Mountain license application with prejudice.  The full Commission immediately initiated a review of the Board’s ruling, but – with the matter entering its fifth month – it has had little to say about the ASLB finding even in the face of a Jaczko order to stop the agency’s review in early October on budgetary grounds.

In a re-statement of his disagreement with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko over the latter’s decision to close-out the review, Ostendorff states that the actions ‘contravene the intent of the President’s directive on openness and transparency.”

In the correspondence, the Commissioner confirmed that a key Yucca Mountain review document – Volume III, which deals with critical repository post-closure issues – was being readied for “concurrence and authorization to publish” in mid-July.  ‘In light of the recent guidance to NRC staff for the fiscal year 2011 Continuing Resolution, it is now my understanding that NRC staff is no longer working on Volume III,” he said.

The Ostendorff Letter (PDF).


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