WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators plans to reintroduce a bill that, in its most recent form, would have created a new federal agency dedicated to dealing with nuclear waste, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said during a Wednesday hearing here on Capitol Hill.
Alexander would sponsor the bill along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The two are respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee. Alexander announced plans to refile his nuclear waste bill during a subcommittee hearing on the Donald Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The last version of the bill, proposed in in 2015, was cosponsered by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore).
The bill would have created a Nuclear Waste Administration to vet sites for permanent nuclear-waste repositories besides the proposed Yucca Mountain facility in Nye County, Nev., plus a watchdog sister group called the Nuclear Waste Oversight Board.
Feinstein, who spoke with reporters after Wednesday’s NRC budget hearing, said she was afraid the bill would again be opposed by the nuclear power industry. Feinstein, whose state hosts two shuttered nuclear power plants, claimed the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) whipped up opposition to the bill in the last Congress.
“NEI opposes it, believe it or not,” Feinstein told reporters here. “I couldn’t believe we couldn’t move this bill. Where’s the opposition coming from? It’s coming from the nuclear industry.”
NEI has long favored restarting Yucca Mountain and spoken out against alternatives that, in the group’s opinion, would only compete with the proposed repository for a shrinking pool of federal dollars.
The Barack Obama administration suspended the Energy Department’s application to license Yucca Mountain as a permanent waste repository in 2010. The Donald Trump administration has proposed restarting the application as part of its 2018 budget. DOE would get $110 million for the Yucca restart in 2018, if Trump’s budget proposal becomes law, while NRC would get $30 million for Yucca.
Feinstein deferred to Alexander about when the new Nuclear Waste Administration Act might be filed. Alexander did not provide a timetable during the hearing and did not speak to reporters afterward.