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Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Waste Policy Act’

DOE YUCCA LIABILITY ESTIMATE UP $2 BILLION FROM 2009

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

 

December 18, 2010

Nuclear Townhall 
 
The Federal government's recorded liabilities for "its inability to accept commercial spent nuclear fuel" from utilities are now estimated at $15.5 billion accordingly to a new U.S. Department of Energy Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2010. The liability estimate for partial breach of contract under the terms of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act is up over $2 billion dollars from the previous fiscal year estimate of $13.2 billion. The new estimate is net of $841 million in settlements already paid to utilities, which leaves the total liability estimate at $16.2 billion.
 
While the significant year-over-year increase is not highlighted in messages from Energy Secretary Steven Chu or Chief Financial Officer Steve Isakowitz in the 134-page November 12, 2010 report, the liability increase is flagged as material in the KPMG LLP Auditors' Report, which accompanies the report.
 
Although the report characterizes industry estimates of $50 billion in ultimate damages as "highly inflated" it cautions that "future determinations on how the Department will meet its obligations… could materially decrease or increase the spent nuclear fuel litigation liability." Approximately 50 cases remain pending in the Court of Federal Claims or in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Settlements are paid out of the Department of Justice's Judgment Fund.
 
The report notes that the Department "remains committed to meeting its obligations to manage and ultimately dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste" and says, "The Secretary has convened a Blue Ribbon Commission of experts to evaluate alternative approaches to meet the Federal government's responsibility."
 

SC GOV. ELECT HALEY TELLS PRESIDENT AT WHITE HOUSE:  GIVE US OUR YUCCA $$$s BACK

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

December 3, 2010
Nuclear Townhall

According to the Associated Press, South Carolina Governor-elect and rising Republican star Nikki Haley has told President Obama directly that the state “wants its money back if the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage site isn’t opening.”

The Governor-elect apparently advised the President at a White House meeting this week that “the federal government has reneged on its promise, and South Carolina wants a refund.”

South Carolina electricity consumers have invested more than a $1 billion in the government’s Nuclear Waste Fund, which has a balance of an estimated $23 billion.  The state is also storing thousands of tons of defense nuclear materials that are earmarked for the national site.

Utilities and regulatory commissioners are suing to suspend the almost $800 million that is collected from electricity consumers annually for the Fund.  South Carolina is among several plaintiffs in Federal Court charging that the Energy Department has violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, among other things.

The Obama Administration has requested no funding for the project in FY2011 and is seeking to permanently withdraw a license application for Yucca Mountain, now pending before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Haley told AP that “Obama pledged that he would have Energy Secretary Steven Chu call her promptly.”


Read more about it at Carolina Live

 
 

TOWN HALL EXCLUSIVE: SOUTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE QUERIES NRC ON YUCCA SHUTDOWN

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

The South Carolina Attorney General’s office has written the U.S. Department of Justice and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission querying the NRC’s recent moves to close out the Department of Energy’s license application for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.

"In responding, we request that you honor the spirit of our question, rather than splitting any technical hairs in how our question is framed," said the letter, signed by Andrew A. Fitz, senior counsel for the attorney general’s office. "In our opinion, this information is relevant to our mutual obligation to continue to inform the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals of the status of the administrative matter before the NRC."

South Carolina is a principal plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy’s decision to withdraw its application for Yucca. Originally filed by Aiken Country, S.C., home of the Savannah River site, the suit has since been joined by the State of South Carolina and Washington State, home of the Hanford Reservation. Both Savannah River and Hanford house spent fuel and other nuclear by-products that would eventually be stored at Yucca Mountain. The suit alleges that DOE’s decision reneges on the federal government’s obligation to provide a
permanent repository under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

Fitz asked either the DOJ or the NRC to either confirm of deny reports that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has instructed the agency staff to start closing out the DOE application, as reported yesterday by Nuclear Townhall. Jaczko has initiated the action even though the full commission has not yet voted on the Atomic Safety Licensing Board’s decision rejecting the shutting down of Yucca, which was issued on June 29.

The letter is addressed to both Ellen J. Durkee, of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department, and John F. Cordes, Solicitor for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "We are directing our inquiry to you, rather than the NRC directly, based in the fact that our question relates to a matter in litigation in which you represent the NRC, among other respondents," wrote Fitz.

Testimony in the D.C. lawsuit has been suspended pending a vote by the Commission on whether to accept or reject the ASLB’s finding.

Rumors are that Chairman Jaczko has been unable to assemble the votes for needed for a rebuttal. Jaczko has directed much of his attention toward closing down Yucca since being appointed chairman in 2009 under the championship of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, where the repository is located. Senator Reid is currently locked in a tight race for re-election against Republican challenger Sharon Angle, who holds a 4-point lead according to the latest poll.

HOUSE GOP LETTER TO NRC CHAIR BLASTS DOE PREMISE FOR YUCCA WITHDRAWAL

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Expresses Concern over NRC Commissioners’ Objectivity

By Nuclear Townhall Staff

A letter sent to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko today by more than a dozen House Republicans says the DOE does not have the authority to withdraw the Yucca Mountain license application "simply as a matter of policy."

"At no point in DOE’s motion to withdraw did the agency fault any scientific or technical portions of the license application.  This omission highlights the shaky grounds on which DOE rested its argument to shutter Yucca Mountain."

Letter co-signers, which include ranking Republican James Sensenbrenner (R-WI),  agreed with the Atomic Safety Licensing Board’s observation in its rejection of the DOE withdrawal request that "Congressional intent was clear" in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) noting "DOE cannot shortchange proper examination of the repository because of political preferences."

"The massive investment in both time and taxpayer dollars warrant proper consideration of the license application by the NRC. Over the course of thirty years, approximately $10 billion have been spent on Yucca Mountain. Throwing away this investment due to a campaign-pledge is not acceptable. Should the Commission overturn the Board’s decision, DOE and Congress will be forced to start anew to address spent fuel, which will only cost more taxpayer dollars, increase the government’s liability, and burden facilities that are currently storing waste on-site."

The letter calls a promise by Commissioners Apostolakis,
Magwood and Ostendorff to not second guess the DOE withdrawal "an inappropriate commitment" saying, as nominees, the commissioners "should not have faced intense pressure" both from Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Reid. 

"The Commission should examine each case on its merits, rather than pre-judging an argument.  We hope the entire Commission considers the Board’s decision in an objective manner."

YUCCA PROPONENTS: NRC MUST ADOPT ETHICAL STANDARDS OF FEDERAL JUDGES

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Commissioners have already shown anti-Yucca bias
 
By Steve Hedges
WASHINGTON — Proponents of the Yucca Mountain, Nevada nuclear waste facility have told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it must meet the same standards as the federal judiciary and that three of its members should recuse themselves from the debate over Yucca since they have already voiced their opposition to the project.
 
In a motion filed with the NRC in Washington, the states of Washington and South Carolina, the counties of Aiken, South Carolina and White Pine, Nevada and a group of utility commissioners “respectfully request that (NRC) Commissioners Magwood, Apostolakis, and Ostendorff recuse themselves and be disqualified from any consideration," of the license concerning Yucca.
 
"When acting in an adjudicatory role, NRC Commissioners are, like other agency adjudicators, subject to the same objective standard for recusal as federal judges," the motion states. "This objective standard provides that a judge ‘shall’ recuse him or herself in any proceeding in which ‘his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. ‘
 
“The Supreme Court has explained that under this standard, “’what matters is not the reality of bias or prejudice but its appearance. Quite simply and quite universally, recusal [is] required whenever ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned.’ ”
 
Congress determined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 that a national nuclear waste repository be built, and in 1987 it chose the Yucca Mountain, site, which is about 90 miles from Las Vegas in desert lands.
 
But Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada democrat and now the U.S. Senate majority leader, wants to cancel Yucca. The Obama administration has sided with Reid, a political ally who is in a close re-election fight this year. Earlier this year the administration asked its Department of Energy to withdraw its Yucca license application before the NRC.
 
But last month, the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled that the DOE doesn’t have the authority to do that, since Congress selected the Yucca site and dictated by law that it be built.
 
Following the decision, the NRC invited parties involved in the Yucca dispute to submit arguments to determine, "whether the Commission should review, and reverse or uphold, the [Atomic Safety and Licensing] Board’s decision."
 
The motion filed by the states, counties and utility commissioners suggests that the NRC can’t objectively do that because three of its members have already voiced their opposition to Yucca. A fourth, commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, previously worked in opposition to Yucca when he was a staff member in the Senate for Reid.
 
The three NRC commissioners in question — William Magwood, George Apostolakis, and William Ostendorff — answered "No," during their confirmation hearings in February 2010 when they were asked if they would oppose DOE’s request that its Yucca license be withdrawn (DOE made that request a week before the hearing).
 
They were questioned by Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Boxer said she was asking the question on behalf of Reid. When each commissioner replied that he would not block the effort to halt the Yucca project, she told them, that Reid, "will be very pleased."
 
But the motion filed with the NRC by the states, counties and utility commissioners argues that it was that exchange that demonstrates that three of the commissioners are biased, and that the political considerations of Reid and the administration have tainted the NRC deliberative process.
 
"The standard for recusal or disqualification is met in this case," the motion states. "The extra-judicial testimony of Commissioners Magwood, Apostolakis, and Ostendorff, made in advance and as a matter of confirmation that they would not ‘second guess’ any DOE decision to withdraw the Yucca Mountain license application, can be reasonably interpreted to demonstrate that each have, in fact, prejudged this matter should the Commission choose to review the ASLB’s decision."
 
The motion specifically cites the exchange with Boxer at the confirmation hearing, and her statement that Reid "will be very pleased" as, "further indication that the questioning was intended to establish that the new Commissioners would not stand in the way of DOE’s motion to withdraw. No other meaning was intended or understood, nor can any other meaning be inferred."
 
Since the new Commissioners had not yet taken office when they made the statements, their opinions were obviously formed on “‘some basis other than what the judge has learned from his participation in the case.”
 
Besides the issue with the three commissioners, the motion also raises questions about the impartiality of NRC Chairman Jaczko. In notes that during Jaczcko’s own Senate confirmation hearing, in April 2005, that Jaczko pledged to recuse himself from Yucca mountain deliberations for one year. That period has since expired. But some senators during the hearing questioned whether a year-long recusal was adequate, given Jaczko’s opposition to Yucca while working the Senate.
 
One such skeptic was Sen. James Inohofe (R-Okla.), then the committee’s chairman. During the hearing, he told Jazcko about the recusal of a previous NRC commissioner involving NRC deliberations at the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire:
 
"Senator INHOFE: Well, you know, there is some precedent for this. It was Commissioner Curtis, a few years ago, who had had a very similar association with Seabrook. He did recuse himself, by letter to us, in his tenure of service. So if that is the request I make of you, do I understand that you prefer not to do that?
 
Mr. JACZKO: I would certainly review that. I am not familiar with all the details of his circumstances, and I will certainly review that with the Office of General Counsel and seek their advice on the similarities with my circumstance."
 
During the hearing, Jaczko also told the committee that, "My hope is that within 1 year, I will have demonstrated that absolutely I can be fair and objective. My hope is that at the end of my recusal, that the answer to that question will be self-evident, whether or not I need to further recuse myself. But I will certainly continue to discuss with our Office of General Counsel, as well as other members of the Commission, what my appropriate action should be on any matters, including Yucca Mountain, after that recusal."