NUCLEAR WASTE:

Republicans question DOE on Yucca Mountain

Two Republican House leaders are asking the Department of Energy why the agency pulled support for the Yucca Mountain repository without offering a "viable alternative."

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who leads the Environment and Economy Subcommittee, today sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu about Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.

Upton and Shimkus asked whether the Energy Department, after more than 20 years of studying and preparing the site, has information showing it is not safe to serve as a repository.

The lawmakers also asked DOE to provide the total amount of damages in dollars paid to generating plant operators for the agency's contractual failure to accept the high-level waste.

President Obama's administration ended the Yucca Mountain program, and last year DOE filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw the license application for the high-level nuclear waste repository.

Obama also directed Chu last year to establish a commission to review policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle and to provide recommendations for developing long-term solutions to managing nuclear fuel and waste.

Upton and Shimkus expressed concern over the "billions of dollars" spent on the project and said the Nuclear Waste Policy Act makes clear that Congress has a fiduciary duty to consumers.

They said it would be difficult to make the act more "plain, specific, and mandatory than it already is" but that the federal government must establish a permanent facility for accepting high-level waste and address the amount of money consumers are paying for the project.

The federal government must also address the Department of the Treasury "paying out billions of dollars in damages with no real end in sight due to the department's failure to meet its obligations," the lawmakers wrote.

Some congressional Republicans have raised the possibility of trying to continue developing Yucca Mountain for spent nuclear fuel, but that is unlikely to gain traction as long as Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a leading critic of the project, remain in office.

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