Lawmakers on Wednesday accused commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of avoiding a 2013 court order to license a nuclear waste facility in Nevada that the Obama administration and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid do not want licensed.
A 2013 court order forced the NRC to re-start the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada to become a nuclear waste repository. But the Obama administration and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid have staunchly opposed the project’s advancement. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz accused the Obama administration of having “Illegally refused to act on Yucca Mountain’s application to become a nuclear waste repository” in a report on Obama’s executive actions that he released Wednesday.
Lawmakers accused the NRC of avoiding the court order at a Wednesday House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing to review the NRC’s fiscal year budget request. The NRC budget request, if approved, would increase the agency’s funding and staff size without allocating funds for the Yucca Mountain project.
“The NRC has a statutory requirement but you don’t request funding to carry it out,” said Republican Illinois Rep. John Shimkus, calling the NRC’s inaction on the court order “unbelievable.”
“You got money in the budget for other things, but you don’t have money in the budget for what the law requires,” concurred Ohio Republican Rep. Bill Johnson.
NRC chairman Allison Macfarlane said that she is “following the law” with respect to Yucca Mountain.
“Let me explain about the Yucca Mountain situation. We received an order from the court requiring us to continue the licensing process with existing funds, and we have done so,” Macfarlane said.
The NRC requested more funding despite a drop-off in productivity.
“The NRC budget for fiscal year 2015 shows an increase in resources and staffing despite a shrinking fleet of reactors,” said Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton.
“I would like to understand how, with $400 million more dollars and 800 more people, the NRC is struggling to review 40 percent fewer licensing actions. Comparing today’s NRC with the NRC of ten years ago shows how management efficiency has degraded over the last decade. In 2004, the NRC expected the number of productive hours from the employees to be 1,776 per year. For FY 2014, that number is 1,355, a decrease of 24 percent,” Rep. Shimkus said.