Regulator found Yucca nuclear dump safe-report

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 08, 2011 7:44 PM
Regulator found Yucca nuclear dump safe-report

By Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The nuclear regulator found a controversial Nevada site suitable for storing toxic waste from nuclear power plants despite Obama administration claims the location is unsafe, Republicans in the House of Representatives said.

An unreleased review by Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff of a planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain found that it met regulatory requirements, according to a report on Wednesday by Republican staff of the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Republican lawmakers are fighting to revive the site, and the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan in March has brought the waste issue to the forefront.

The committee -- which obtained the safety review even though it has not been made public -- says the U.S. Department of Energy lacked scientific grounds to kill the waste storage facility planned for deep under the Nevada site.

"Despite numerous suggestions by political officials -- including President Obama -- that Yucca Mountain is unsafe for storing nuclear waste, the Committee could not identify a single document to support such a claim," the report said.

"To the contrary, the Committee found great agreement among the scientific and technical experts responsible for reviewing the suitability of Yucca Mountain ... that nuclear waste can be safely stored at the site for tens of thousands of years."

NEVADA HATES YUCCA DUMP

The plan to house nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles from Las Vegas, was approved by then-President George W. Bush in 2002 but fiercely opposed by Nevada residents who feared the dump could pollute water and hurt tourism.

The Obama administration in 2010 asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to pull an application to license the dump, and named a panel of experts to look for other options.

An NRC licensing board told the administration it lacked the authority to shut down Yucca. The Energy Department appealed that decision to the full commission, which has not resolved its final position.

Republican lawmakers have criticized the NRC's chairman, Gregory Jaczko, a former aide to Nevada Senator Harry Reid, for stalling that decision.

Jaczko said on Wednesday that the agency's inspector general had reviewed his actions and cleared him. "The conclusions of the report reaffirm that my actions have been and remain consistent with established law, guidance, and my authorities as chairman," Jaczko said.

The NRC did not release that report, citing policy.

The House Energy and Commerce committee said it would hold a hearing on the inspector general's report on Jaczko's actions next Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Dale Hudson)