In " Decision on Yucca Mountain Overdue" [NLJ July 8], U.S. representatives Fred Upton and John Dingell, respectively the chairman and chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, argue that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission owes Congress an answer whether the proposed high-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Yucca Mountain is safe, and that by refusing to answer this question the commission has upended the rule of law. The facts suggest otherwise.
On May 20, 2011, a panel of three independent administrative law judges effectively suspended the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding and, on November 29, 2011, a unanimous Nuclear Regulatory Commission (with one member recused) agreed a suspension was appropriate.
Former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko did not act alone, as the article implied. The basis for the suspension was simply that there were insufficient funds to make any meaningful progress toward a decision on the license application and that continuing with the incredibly complex proceeding under these circumstances would cause undue and potentially unnecessary expense. Since then the Congress has consistently refused to provide either the NRC or the Department of Energy with any additional funds, and, accordingly, the licensing proceeding remains suspended. This is not an example of an agency upending the rule of law but rather an example of an agency exercising prudence and common sense.
Catherine Cortez Masto
Carson City, Nev.
The writer is attorney general of Nevada.