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For Immediate Release: March 16, 2010
Contact: Robert J. Thormeyer, 202-898-9382, rthormeyer@naruc.org

NARUC Seeks Party Status at NRC, Says Yucca Review Must Continue

WASHINGTON—The nation’s State utility commissioners asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to intervene in its consideration of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners made its petition after the U.S. Energy Department earlier this month petitioned the NRC to withdraw its license application for Yucca Mountain with prejudice, meaning that if the agency grants the request, Yucca can no longer be considered an option for nuclear-waste storage.

In its filing, NARUC said that withdrawing the application is premature, arbitrary and capricious. Doing so ignores the more than 20 years of study and $31 billion in fees and interest paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund. Fees are paid by nuclear utilities but those costs are passed along to ratepayers.

“Dismissal of the Yucca Mountain application will significantly undermine the government’s ability to fulfill its outstanding obligation to take possession and dispose of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high level nuclear waste,” the filing said. “Dismissal at this late stage, in the absence of any rational explanation or record-based findings to justify it, is an incredible waste of the billions in ratepayer dollars spent on the licensing proceeding to date. Moreover, ratepayers across the country continue to pay for a national storage ‘solution,’ enhanced litigation costs, and the clearly documented increased costs of interim storage. If the motion is successful, and history is any indication, it will effectively delay DOE’s ability to finally begin to accept waste for at least 25 years.”

Technically, the NARUC filing is a request to intervene in the case. The Association did not intervene when DOE submitted the license application about two years ago under the belief that the NRC would perform its due diligence and make the final call on the safety of the site. The Association did not anticipate DOE completely reversing course by not only wanting to withdrawal the application, but to do so “with prejudice” to completely remove the site from consideration.

Because ratepayers who receive nuclear power have contributed $17 billion in payments to the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF), NARUC believes the NRC owes it to its constituents to proceed with its review of the Yucca application.

If the NRC grants DOE’s request, “the billions expended for the licensing proceeding would be wasted, and the long-term nuclear waste storage process would be back at square one,” the filing said. “This would significantly delay the DOE’s ability to take title to the waste, exacerbating the security issues and extending the cost of interim storage, while DOE continues to collect money under the NWF.”

A copy of the petition is available on the NARUC Website at: http://www.naruc.org/Filings/10%200315%20NARUC%20Petition%20to%20Intervene%2063-001-HLW%20fin.pdf.

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NARUC is a non-profit organization founded in 1889 whose members include the governmental agencies that are engaged in the regulation of utilities and carriers in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. NARUC's member agencies regulate telecommunications, energy, and water utilities. NARUC represents the interests of State public utility commissions before the three branches of the Federal government.

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