YUCCA PLAINTIFFS TO NRC COMMISSIONERS – STEP ASIDE OR BE DISQUALIFIED – EXCLUSIVE VIDEO
Nuclear Townhall Exclusive Video of NRC Commissioners at Senate Nomination Hearing
By Steve Hedges
The States of Washington and South Carolina along with Aiken County (SC) and White Pine County (NV) have asked that three members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recuse themselves or be disqualified from ruling on the use of Yucca Mountain, Nevada as a federal nuclear waste repository, citing the commissioners’ Senate confirmation testimony where they indicated they would not oppose a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decision to withdraw a pending license application.
During their confirmation hearing in February, 2010, the three commissioners — George Apostolakis, William Magwood and William Ostendorff — each said that they would not "second guess" a decision by the Department of Energy to withdraw its application to the NRC to operate Yucca Mountain.
Washington, South Carolina, the South Carolina county of Aiken and a group of utility commissioners from around the U.S. have sued to keep the project alive.
Those parties also filed statements with the NRC Friday as part of the commission’s deliberations over Yucca.
The Washington filing to the NRC noted that the NRC will not have the required quorum to vote on Yucca if the three commissioners recuse themselves.
While DOE has asked that its license for Yucca be withdrawn at the request of the White House, an NRC licensing board of three judges ruled in June that DOE does not have the authority to do that.
The licensing board found that the Congressional Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, which authorized a federal nuclear waste facility, "does not give the secretary (of energy) the discretion to substitute his policy for the one established by Congress."
After that ruling, the NRC asked parties to the Yucca proceeding to submit their views as to whether the Commission should review the order and reverse or uphold the licensing board decision. Department of Energy s decision to withdraw the license application for Yucca Mountain from NRC s review?
Aiken County, S.C. in its own filing argued that, "Public confidence in the NRC demands that the politically charged and nationally significant issue of whether to second-guess the Licensing Board’s independent decision should not (be) undertaken by a Commission that has demonstrated predisposition, nor by a Commission effectively diminished to just two members by obvious and intentional political interference. However, if review is undertaken, the Licensing Board’s correct interpretation of the NWPA should be upheld."
Other parties in the dispute have questioned whether the NRC even has the authority to expedite that process by requiring briefs on the Yucca case within just two weeks – not its normal practice.
Further questions about the NRC’s impartiality have been raised in regard to the commission’s chairman, Gregory Jaczko. He is a former aide to Reid who opposed Yucca Mountain while working for Reid in the Senate.
But the statements by the three commissioners seemed to pose the biggest stumbling block for the parties that favor Yucca’s operation.
"This undue political influence on this adjudication cannot be effectively cured by votes to "abstain" by the three Commissioners directly subjected to the inappropriate questions in their confirmation hearing," the Aiken pleading stated. "Indeed, as Aiken County will set forth by separate motion jointly with other parties, full recusal from any consideration regarding DOE’s motion to withdraw is the ethically appropriate response by these Commissioners."
The statements against Yucca by the three commissioners came during their Feb. 9, 2010 U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.
During the hearings, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), questioned nominees George Apostolakis, William Magwood and William Ostendorff together.
According to the transcript of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing, Boxer posed a question on behalf of Reid:
"Senator Boxer: Now, I have a question here for all three of you from Senator Reid. You can just answer it yes or no. If confirmed, would you second guess the Department of Energy s decision to withdraw the license application for Yucca Mountain from NRC s review?
Mr. Magwood. No.
Senator Boxer. Okay. Anybody else?
Mr. Apostolakis. No.
Mr. Ostendorff. No.
Senator Boxer. Thank you. I think he will be very pleased with that."
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