Explain Redactions in Yucca Mountain Safety Report, NRC Panel Tells Agency

The three-judge panel of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on Friday threw out a motion to shelve proceedings for the Yucca Mountain license case through May 20. The judges also asked the NRC to explain why it whited-out portions of a report assessing the safety of the Nevada nuclear waste repository that was released last week.

The judges said the panel would not keep the Yucca Mountain licensing case inactive because it intended to press on as quickly as possible with the case. The Las Vegas Sun speculated that the order could mean the licensing board would like to restart hearing on the repository.

In a second order, the judges of the semi-autonomous panel asked the NRC to explain by next Thursday why it whited-out portions of its 700-page Yucca Mountain Volume III Safety Evaluation Report (SER). The assessment should be the final word on whether or not the facility could safely be built and operated—but both the executive summary and the report’s conclusions had been redacted.

The agency defended its decision to redact this information last week, saying the document—and an accompanying 655-page volume—were “predecisional draft documents that have not undergone management review. As such, they are not official agency documents and have been redacted.” The safety report had been made available to public as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request by the Heritage Foundation.

“Given the controversial nature of the debate, the billions of dollars spent on Yucca Mountain, and the project’s importance to the nation’s energy future, the NRC should have figured out a way to give the public access to the staff’s conclusions,” the conservative think tank blogged. “Not doing so forces policymakers, the public, and other stakeholders to form opinions based on an incomplete data set. And while the staff conclusions may not represent a final SER, much less commission policy, they would have gone a long way to inform the public debate over Yucca.”

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, Las Vegas Sun, Heritage Foundation

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