Today the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released a report, prepared by the Majority Staff, outlining the findings from numerous document requests and official correspondence between Committee Members and Administration officials over the last two and half years, regarding the termination of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. The report details the complete absence of scientific information and analysis used to support the shutdown decision, and reviews Administration actions in the context of promises and specific guidelines on scientific integrity, openness, and transparency set forth by President Obama and senior Administration officials.
The reportrepresents a comprehensive review and analysis of documents that have been requested in a series of letters from Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX), Vice Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA), and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). The report was requested by Chairman Broun, who held a roundtable in his district this morning on issues related to nuclear power and nuclear waste disposal.
"I would like to commend Rep. Broun for his leadership on this issue," said Chairman Hall. "The findings are striking. Despite proclamations from the Administration that its policy decisions are based on principles of scientific integrity and transparent process, this report highlights that the decision to shutdown Yucca Mountain had no scientific basis. The Committee has examined this issue for the past two and a half years, and we will continue to pursue this issue to ensure nuclear waste management policy is transparent and driven by sound science."
The results of this review outline a systematic and active effort on the part of the Administration to obfuscate, delay, and muzzle scientific and technical information and related processes in order to shut down Yucca Mountain. The report states, "These actions not only violated the President's own highly promoted principles and directives on scientific integrity, transparency, and openness, but they have increased taxpayer liabilities under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, left nuclear waste sitting at reactor sites across the country with no plan for disposal, and ultimately threatened the long-term potential of nuclear power to meet America's growing energy demands with safe, clean, and affordable baseload electricity."
Chairman Broun said, "The Obama Administration has continually contradicted itself by claiming that Yucca Mountain is an unfit place to store nuclear waste, yet they have offered no data that this is a factual claim, nor have they offered an alternative plan for the disposal of our nation's nuclear waste. To date, the Committee has not received any scientific or technical rationale for determining that Yucca Mountain is "not a workable option.'
Broun continued, "The staff report released today highlights the fact that to-date the Committee has not received any scientific or technical analysis to support that Yucca Mountain is not a safe option for long-term nuclear waste storage. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission process is clearly broken and I believe it is important for the NRC to finalize and make the Safety Evaluation Report public as a product of almost $15 billion of taxpayer funding, and as required by law."
Despite numerous suggestions by political officials, including President Obama, that Yucca Mountain is unsafe for storing nuclear waste, the Committee could not identify a single document to support such a claim. To the contrary, the Committee found great agreement among the scientific and technical experts that nuclear waste can be safely stored at the site for tens of thousands of years, in accordance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements.
Vice Chairman Sensenbrenner said, "This report showcases President Obama's disregard for scientific facts and Congressional intent in pursuing the termination of Yucca Mountain. Instead, he has chosen to base his decision on politics and, in doing so, has jeopardized the nation's ability to safely store radioactive waste."
Most noteworthy in this regard is the 695-page Volume III of the NRC's Safety Evaluation Report (SER). Obtained by the Committee only after repeated demands and over the objections of the NRC Chairman, SER Volume III demonstrates in excruciating detail the level of technical support among NRC and Department of Energy (DOE) experts in favor of the site's advancement. Overall, the NRC staff review concluded that DOE"s Yucca Mountain License Application complies with applicable NRC safety requirements necessary for the site to proceed to licensing for construction.
The report strongly urges the Administration provide to Congress the relevant and necessary information related to the Yucca Mountain decision process, allow formal completion of the Safety Evaluation Reports, and bring the DOE's Motion to Withdraw its license application to a vote before the full commission.
Chairman Harris said, "This report demonstrates President Obama's lack of concern for scientific data regarding Yucca Mountain. We have increased rates on ratepayers and invested nearly $15 billion on this facility only to cancel it without any regard for facts."