NRC takes on Yucca application

WASHINGTON — The once-stumbling Department of Energy reached another milestone Monday when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it will conduct in-depth studies and have safety hearings on plans to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

The nuclear safety agency’s decision to accept a Yucca Mountain application onto its licensing docket represents the latest step forward for the project over the objections of Nevada’s elected leaders.

An 8,600-page license application DOE filed on June 3 “contains sufficient information” for the agency to move ahead to the next stage of formal review, according to Michael Weber, director of the NRC Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.

The move opens the way for detailed safety studies that will be performed by NRC technical staff over the next year and for legal hearings starting next spring before panels of administrative judges where lawyers for Nevada and other parties will be able to raise challenges to the application.

The entire licensing process is envisioned by law to take three to four years. Many believe it could take years longer for the NRC to sort through a complex, first-of-its-kind project with weighty health and safety implications.

Weber said budget shortfalls also could cause delays in the agency’s work. The agency’s budget for Yucca work this year was cut by $8 million, while Weber said a proposed budget for next year also is about $30 million less than what would be needed.

The fate of the Yucca project also could hinge on the presidential election in November. Democrat Barack Obama has said he will halt the project if he is elected.

“The Bush administration is continuing to pursue the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, despite the mounting scientific evidence that it is not safe for the people of Nevada,” Kirsten Searer, Nevada communications director for the Obama campaign in Nevada, said Monday.

Republican John McCain has voted for the repository in the past. Campaign spokesman Rick Gorka said Monday that McCain “is supportive of Yucca as long as it meets environmental and safety concerns.” NRC docketing “is one step in the process.”

The NRC’s docketing decision came at the end of a 90-day screening period. Roughly 40 NRC staffers and consultants reviewed the DOE’s license application, said Lawrence Kokajko, director of the division of high-level waste repository safety.

Weber stressed the license application was not reviewed for merit, but to ensure it was complete enough to proceed.

The docketing decision was announced after the NRC notified members of Congress.

Those from Nevada were not happy although they were not altogether surprised. The NRC last month rejected a call by Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto for the DOE license application to be set aside immediately as flawed and incomplete.

“The latest development was a formality we expected,” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said safety reviews are sure to turn up red flags “and will result in NRC’s rejection of the DOE proposal.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., indicated that the battle against the repository is not over.

“The NRC’s decision puts nuclear politics over the health and safety of Nevada families and you can bet that we will continue fighting the Bush-McCain Yucca Mountain plan,” she said.

But Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said he was confident the NRC’s “rigorous review process will validate that the Yucca Mountain repository will safely store this waste in a manner that is most protective of human health and the environment.”

The agency’s docketing decision “is a significant step forward in solving the nation’s problem of disposing of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste,” Bodman said.

Besides docketing the license application, the NRC also accepted DOE environmental impact studies for the repository, with one exception. It called for DOE to bolster analyses of how the repository operations would affect groundwater.

“There appeared to be a gap in some of their analyses,” Weber said. “It is not an extensive gap but will require at least several months of effort and analysis to close.”

The Energy Department proposes to build a warren of tunnels beneath Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, where 77,000 tons of used nuclear fuel and highly radioactive material from U.S. weapons manufacturing would be stored and eventually sealed within the mountain.

An above-ground waste handling complex also would be constructed where canisters of waste would arrive, mostly by rail, from sites in 39 states.

The department had missed a series of deadlines and was buffeted by budget cuts and bad headlines until new managers in recent years appeared to get the program on track.

But even as the project makes headway at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a number of other barricades lie ahead.

DOE needs Congress to pass special legislation to clear away regulatory obstacles and to make larger sums of money available for construction, and lawmakers have shown little interest to date.

Reid, the Senate majority leader, has said pro-Yucca bills will never pass during his tenure. The repository plan is opposed by a majority of Nevadans. State leaders have committed millions of dollars to fight at the NRC and in courts.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@ or 202-783-1760.

Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jeffrey Martin Added To Nevada's Black Book
Martin was one of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison. The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to include Martin in the black book.
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Buffalo Wild Wings security video
Security footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in southwest Las Vegas captured a driver who repeatedly crashed into a vehicle in a failed attempt to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Navigating the new I-515 southbound to 215 Beltway ramp configuration
After opening at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, the new Interstate 515 southbound to the 215 Beltway westbound freeway ramp configuration caused confusion amongst motorist. Here’s how to navigate the new ramp. (Mick Akers/ Las Vegas Review-Journal).
A record breaking donation of nearly $9 million to Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada
A record breaking donation of property valued at nearly $9 million was made to the Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada by the Charles and Phyllis M. Frias Charitable Trust. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal. @bizutesfaye
Kerry Clasby thanks the community for support after California fire damage
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about the lessons of accepting help as she has gone through the Woolsey Fire disaster, in which she lost many of her belongings. About 100 people were on hand for an event that raised about $7,000.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like