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POLITICS: PennAve

Nuclear regulator to restart Yucca review

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Appeals Courts,PennAve,Energy and Environment,Nevada,Zack Colman,Nuclear Waste,Yucca Mountain

The federal nuclear regulator said Monday that it would restart its review of whether Yucca Mountain can safely serve as the nation's permanent waste repository.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision is a response to an August directive from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to finish reviewing the Energy Department's application for the controversial Nevada site.

"The commission reached this decision after obtaining views from numerous parties involved in the licensing process as to how it should proceed," spokesman David McIntyre said.

A 1982 federal law instructs the NRC to evaluate whether Yucca can safely operate as the nation's permanent nuclear waste repository. But the commission, with support from President Obama, stopped reviewing the Energy Department's application to use Yucca in 2009, effectively halting the project.

But the August court decision overruled that move, saying the NRC's reason for halting the review — lack of funds — didn't mean it could stop the process.

Still, the roughly $11 million that the NRC has to complete the review likely won't be enough.

That means Congress will either have to appropriate more money — an approach preferred by House Republicans — or pass a new nuclear waste law — an option a bipartisan quartet of senators is pushing — to get around having to consider Yucca.

The Senate bill is based on the findings of the Blue Ribbon Commission, an independent expert panel Obama convened in 2010.

The panel recommended moving some of the nation's nearly 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste currently stored at commercial reactors to interim storage sites, moving beyond Yucca as an option for long-term storage and asking communities to apply to host the nation's permanent repository.

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