The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a divided vote on Friday allowed the Obama administration to forge ahead in closing the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste dump in Nevada.
The NRC split 2-2 on Friday on upholding or rejecting a decision by the agency’s independent licensing board, which last year voted to reject the Energy Department’s request to withdraw the license for Yucca Mountain.
But despite the split vote, the NRC said in an order on Friday that the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board should continue shutting down the facility.
The outcome, while not surprising, is a victory for both NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and President Obama. When Obama took office in 2009, he pledged to close the repository and ordered a task force to look for other long-term solutions for storing the nation’s nuclear waste. Ever since Jaczko was appointed by Obama to lead the agency in 2009, the chairman has worked to shut Yucca Mountain down.
Jaczko is a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a longtime opponent of the repository. On Friday, Reid wrote on Twitter, “NRC decision brings Yucca closer to its rightful end.”
House Republicans have launched a fierce investigation into the Obama administration’s decision to shutter the dump, which is located 90 miles from Las Vegas. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said this week that the Republicans’ fall agenda will include “its ongoing investigation into the Obama administration’s politically motivated efforts to terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.”
This article appears in the September 9, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.