NRC OKs Yucca Mountain Repository Plan After Closure

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday that the Department of Energy's design for a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain met its safety standards for the time period beginning when it is permanently closed.

The repository has been a political bone of contention for years and is far from even opening. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered completion of the NRC Yucca Mountain review in August 2013 after Congress had cut off funding for the evaluation.

The NRC report released Thursday, called Volume 3, covers one million years past closure of the repository.  The agency still has to complete Volume 2, which is to cover repository safety before permanent closure, Volume 4, covering administrative concerns, and Volume 5, addressing licensing issues. It published Volume 1, which dealt with general information, in August 2010. The final three volumes are expected to be completed by January 2015.

As recently as September, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed to block the Yucca Mountain project for as long as he remained in office.

On Thursday, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., applauded the report, which he called “game-changing” and an important step for the country to maintain its leadership role in the nuclear power industry.

In a summary of the NRC appraisal, the agency said the plan for Yucca Mountain “included the requirement that the repository be made of multiple barriers.” It also met requirements to ensure safety “for individual protection, human intrusion and groundwater protection."

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