The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November spent just $901 of its remaining balance from the fund intended to pay for a permanent repository for radioactive waste.
That left the agency with $414,118 in unobligated balance from the Nuclear Waste Fund, according to the latest expenditure report to Congress.
Of the November spending, $379 was for federal court litigation. That was a steep drop from prior months: $14,325 in October, $11,645 in September, and $1,448 in August. The NRC through the fall had contested a petition filed by Nevada in federal court seeking to bar Commissioner David Wright from participating in any decision on the planned Yucca Mountain repository in the state.
Nevada said Wright had demonstrated a clear bias in favor of the project prior to joining the commission last May. Wright denied that assertion, saying his prior actions and statements indicated only a desire to resolve the longstanding impasse on finding a final resting place for nuclear waste now spread across the nation. He declined Nevada’s request to voluntarily recuse himself from the matter, which led to the federal filing in October. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Dec. 28 ruled against Nevada, indicating the state had jumped the gun because Wright might never rule on Yucca Mountain.
The NRC in 2008 received the license application from the Department of Energy, but the Obama administration defunded the proceeding two years later. The Trump administration has sought new funding to resume licensing, but Congress has so far rejected its requests.
The NRC had just over $13.5 million in its Nuclear Waste Fund balance in August 2013, when the D.C. Circuit ordered it to resume Yucca Mountain licensing activities. It has since spent more than $13.1 million, with nearly $8.4 million used to prepare a safety evaluation report for DOE’s construction application.
The remaining November spending encompassed $522 for program planning and support.