House GOP wants probe into Yucca Mountain

House Republicans are asking Congress’ watchdog agency to investigate whether the Energy Department has the ability to complete a key step toward establishing a nuclear waste facility.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who leads the environment subcommittee on the panel, are worried that the Energy Department might not be able to complete its formal application to establish the Yucca Mountain repository.

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The Obama administration moved in 2009 to stop the formal process of applying to build the facility to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Congress stopped appropriating funds for the application.

But with numerous nuclear power plants closing or slated to close soon, Upton and Shimkus want to know what resources the Energy Department has in place for if it wants to restart the process.

“Should Congress appropriate additional funding to complete the Yucca Mountain [application], DOE must … defend the [application] during the NRC’s review process,” they wrote Monday. “In doing so, DOE would have to utilize contract support and have an organization to manage the activities.”

Upton and Shimkus also cited for the argument the legal challenges to an NRC regulation allowing long-term storage of some nuclear waste at nuclear power plant sites, which, if overturned, would increase the pressure to build Yucca.