More pressure on NRC's phase-out of Yucca review

Republicans are keeping the pressure on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose chairman directed staff last month to begin phasing out their review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.

Three U.S. House members on Tuesday asked the acting director of the White House budget office to clarify what authority NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko had "to shut down the Yucca review and terminate the project."

"While it is widely known the Obama administration opposes Yucca Mountain, it remains our nation's repository for spent nuclear fuel and high level defense waste under the law,"  according to the letter signed by Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

Jaczko has said he was acting under budget guidance approved by the NRC. The House members asked Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget for a detailed explanation of the NRC chairman's budget authority.

The proposed Yucca Mountain project in Nevada has provided rare drama at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a normally low profile agency with the job of regulating the use of nuclear power and the handling of radioactive materials.

As the Obama administration has shut down the program, it also has asked the NRC to withdraw a two-year old construction license application for it. The NRC board is split, however, as to whether the project can be stopped without explicit direction from Congress.