Time is running out to review technical questions about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump before the Energy Department submits a license application at the end of the year, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said Friday.
So far, the commission has deemed 90 of an original 293 questions completed, said Gregory Hatchett, of commission's waste management division.
"DOE may submit answers to staff before the license application, but that does not mean (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) staff will finish before," Hatchett told the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste in Rockville, Md. He said commission officials would also look at the license application for answers.
The Energy Department has said it plans by August to answer unresolved scientific questions about the national nuclear waste repository and submit a license application to the NRC by December.
The department has also said the license application was not contingent on the closure of all 293 issues.
Hatchett did not say whether a delay in reviewing Energy Department answers would push back the three to four years the NRC is expected to spend reviewing the license application.
Congress approved the Yucca Mountain repository project in 2002. The Energy Department wants to obtain a license promptly and begin accepting shipments of the nation's most radioactive nuclear waste in 2010. Yucca Mountain is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Nevada is challenging the Yucca Mountain plan at every turn. Bob Loux, director of the state's agency for nuclear projects, said the unresolved questions need to be answered before the license application is turned in.
The NRC has said it has not received information on 80 questions, while 123 are in various stages of review.