Jeremy L. Dillon
The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C-based think tank, is launching a new project on nuclear waste issues, announcing last week that to lead the effort, it has tapped Tim Frazier, the former designated federal officer for the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. BPC’s new project, “America’s Nuclear Future: Taking Action to Address Nuclear Waste,” aims to expand the conversation on implementable nuclear waste solutions to a more national and regional audience. “At the end of the day, what we are trying to do is put together a roadmap or an implementation plan that would bring together a diverse group—this is a broader group than the Blue Ribbon Commission really spoke to—to try to formulate an action plan that would help not only Congress realize there is an effort out there to move things forward, but also the executive branch,” Frazier told RW Monitor this week. “We are going to hold some regional meetings, the locations are not determined yet, where we hold some facilitated discussions to try to identify what the concerns of the convened group would be and what barriers the group sees and what actions we might take to bust through those barriers. At this point, like I said it’s not firm yet, but four regions would probably be the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West regions.”
The title of the BPC project seems to take its inspiration from the BRC, an association that appears to be intentional. “If you look at the title of the project, it’s pretty clear the linkage back to the BRC,” Frazier said. “The BRC was kind of a basis. Many of the recommendations and advice that came out of the BRC were pretty broadly and well received. I would like to think that it resulted in S-1240, which is the Wyden and Murkowski bill. Certainly that bill did not go quite as far as some of the BRC recommendations, but it was a good step in the right direction,” he said. S-1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, was introduced earlier this year by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) along with several other senators. Both Wyden and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking member on the Senate Energy committee, co-authored the bill drawing from some of the recommendations of the BRC.
Frazier emphasized, however, that the BPC project would not be a repeat of the BRC. “One of the things in the Blue Ribbon Commission that we were precluded from looking at by [former] Secretary [of Energy Steven] Chu was Yucca Mountain, and I would expect Yucca Mountain will be brought up by many of the groups we talk with across the country,” Frazier said. “Yucca Mountain won’t be off the table for us as a topic in the process.” While the BRC could only make recommendations, this new project is looking for ways to achieve a path forward on nuclear waste, Frazier said. “The great thing, and one of the reasons I was very interested in the BPC project, is that it is that opportunity to take it one step further and actually get to the implementation of some of the recommendations and some of the advice,” he said.
The BPC is hoping to include a diverse group of differing opinions to begin to move the conversation forward to a workable solution. “We aren’t going to set down the path to implementing every one of the BRC recommendations,” Frazier said. “This is a much broader scope and a more diverse group of people who will hopefully be involved. It’s that idea that we will be able to encourage people to take action, whether it will be an attorney general from the Northeast or the Western Governors Association which has been involved in the past. It’s a much broader discussion, a much broader view of the issues at hand as well as then an implementation plan or a roadmap that focus the participants in on the actions that they can take to help convince Congress to do XYZ as well as the executive branch to do XYZ,” he said.
Ultimately, the goal of the program is to put a new sense of urgency back into the nuclear waste discussion. “I think at the end of the project the picture of success would be a good, validated, well-discussed, well-vetted, implementation plan that all of these various groups can look into it and see the places that they can a play a role in the implementation and to generate that sense of urgency we had at the end of the BRC,” Frazier said.