Morning Briefing - June 13, 2018
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June 13, 2018

Nuclear Waste Fund Valued at $44.5B at End of FY17

By ExchangeMonitor

The federal fund intended pay for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada was valued at $44.5 billion at the end of fiscal 2017, down by $1.5 billion from the prior year, according to a newly released report from the Department of Energy Inspector General’s Office.

The Nuclear Waste Fund as of Sept. 30, 2017, had received about $25.4 billion in fees from nuclear utilities (suspended since 2013) and the Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal appropriation, along with $26.2 billion in interest revenue and other funding lines, according to the audit by accounting firm KPMG dated May 25 and made public Tuesday.

The Energy Department and its now-disbanded Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board had received $11.7 billion from the fund as of last Sept. 30, the audit says.

Money not needed to pay expenses related to the fund’s operation are invested in U.S. Treasury securities, which has raised concerns about the availability of the money should the repository proceed again to licensing and construction.

“No funds for Yucca Mountain were requested in the FY 2017 or FY 2016 Budget Requests,” the report says. “Funds remaining from OCRWM have been used between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2017 to continue the management of the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF), litigation activities, for additional closure activities under the previous administration, and for exploratory activities under the current Administration to prepare for a resumption of DOE participation in the licensing proceeding pursuant to the FY 2019 Budget Requests.”

Congress in 1987 designated Yucca Mountain as the site for permanent disposal of U.S. spent nuclear reactor fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The Energy Department submitted its license application to the NRC in 2008, but the federal government wound down work on Yucca Mountain just two years later under direction from the Obama White House.

The Trump administration has sought funding to restart licensing, without luck to date. Congress provided no Yucca money for DOE or the NRC in the fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill signed into law in March. While the House has proposed $270 million in fiscal 2019 for licensing activities between the two agencies, the Senate again appears set on zeroing out any such funding.