Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has a powerful ally as he asks for answers about a decision on the future of Yucca Mountain, Nev.
Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the new head of the House's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, signed a letter with Hastings on Friday requesting the release of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision. The committee is the main House investigative committee, with the authority to probe federal programs and matters with federal policy implications.
"We write to you today to request the release of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision regarding the Department of Energy's authority to withdraw the application for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository," the letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said. It also was signed by James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Three NRC commissioners -- William Ostendorff, Christine Svinicki and William Magwood -- voted almost two months ago on whether DOE could withdraw its license application for Yucca Mountain.
But the results of that vote have not been made public.
Instead, Jaczko withdrew his vote, the fourth and final vote, Aug. 25. He then submitted it Oct. 29, six weeks after the other commissioners cast their vote.
"It is clear you delayed the resolution of this matter," the letter said.
Earlier the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled that DOE must move forward with the license. The Obama administration withdrew the DOE application with the NRC to license Yucca Mountain as a national repository after Obama opposed opening Yucca Mountain during his presidential campaign.
The licensing board decision then went to the NRC, which was briefed July 16.
During that time, the Washington, D.C., Federal Circuit Court has postponed proceedings on lawsuits concerning Yucca Mountain while it waits for the NRC's response to the licensing board's decision.
"With all the votes submitted, it is time to fulfill your commitment to openness and provide the public with the answers they deserve," the letter said.
Jaczko has stressed the importance of conducting the public's work in an open and transparent manner, the letter pointed out. Continued delay in finalizing the review fails to live up to the pledge, it said.
The three congressional leaders are asking for a response by Dec. 2 on NRC plans to issue a final order, including the date it will be issued.
Earlier this week Hastings also sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, asking why Jaczko is using the Obama administration's fiscal 2011 budget proposal as justification for halting the license review. The letter also was signed by Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
With no budget approved for fiscal 2011, which started Oct. 1, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution based on the fiscal 2010 funding levels. Money was allocated in fiscal 2010 for the NRC review of the Yucca Mountain license, but the administration's proposal for fiscal 2011 did not include money to continue the licensing review.
"As you know, the Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal was simply a request -- it was never approved by Congress and does not have the force of law," the letter said. The congressmen requested a detailed explanation of the legal budgetary authority of Jaczko to shut down the Yucca Mountain review and terminate the project.
Hanford's high-level radioactive waste has long been planned to be sent to Yucca Mountain for disposal. That includes glassified high-level radioactive waste treated and packaged to Yucca Mountain specifications at the $12.3 billion vitrification plant under construction at Hanford.