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January 31, 2015

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Nuclear industry weighs in on nuke dump license

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The nuclear industry's lobbying arm has suggested that work continue on a license request from the Energy Department to build a nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain, even though President Barack Obama has signaled an end to it.

Marvin S. Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, wrote to Gregory B. Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that the NRC could focus on a technical review of the Energy Department's Yucca Mountain construction permit.

Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects responded with a letter to Jaczko today saying that if the Nuclear Energy Institute's approach is accepted, it would shut out any participation by Nevada, native American tribes and other parties opposing the repository.

"Indeed, if acted upon, NEI's proposal would be an appalling denial of due process of law and would permit DOE and NRC staff to proceed to resolve technical issues related to Yucca Mountain without any meaningful participation by any adverse party," wrote Martin Malsch, one of Nevada's attorneys.

Bruce Breslow, director of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, said the state has 221 legal and scientific arguments that have been accepted by the NRC's Construction Authorization Board.

The Obama administration signaled that it intends to stop pursuing a license for a Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository this year, as Energy Daily reported. "All license defense activities will be terminated in December 2009," a draft Program Decision Memorandum said on Oct. 23.

The Energy Department has not confirmed whether it will ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw the Yucca Mountain license application.

However, the president and Energy Secretary Steven Chu have said that Yucca Mountain is not an option as the nation's nuclear waste repository. Chu is putting together a committee to look at alternatives to burying 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors and Defense Department activities at Yucca Mountain.

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