DOE Belatedly Files License Application with the NRC to Approve the Yucca Mountain Spent Nuclear Fuel Repository

On June 3, 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) finally submitted its initial license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeking construction authorization pursuant to 10 C.F.R. § 63.31 for a high-level radioactive waste repository at a geologic repository operations area at Yucca Mountain in Nye County, Nevada.

The voluminous license application comprises both General Information and a Safety Analysis Report (SAR). The General Information includes a general description of the repository and its operations and the DOE's plans for constructing and protecting the repository facilities and their contents.  The SAR is the principle technical document and discusses how the repository is considered safe and complies with the NRC's regulations.  In the SAR the DOE provides information on the repository's geology, hydrology, mineralogy and surface features and all of the structures and systems that will be constructed to receive, process and emplace spent nuclear fuel.  It also analyzes potential safety hazards and demonstrates that all of the features and structures will perform within acceptable ranges to keep the repository safe.

Congress and President Bush approved Yucca Mountain in 2002 as the site for the United States' first permanent spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste repository.  Presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain has expressed support for the repository at Yucca Mountain, while presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (together with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) has expressed opposition to the project.