Morning Briefing - June 12, 2019
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June 12, 2019

House Committee Rejects Another Shot at Yucca Mountain Funding

By ExchangeMonitor

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday turned back the latest legislative attempt to appropriate funds for licensing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

A bipartisan group of five lawmakers proposed to provide $15 million via an amendment to H.R. 2740, a “minibus” funding bill for fiscal 2020 encompassing several smaller measures already approved by the House Appropriations Committee. That includes the energy and water development appropriations legislation that passed out of committee in May.

However, the Rules Committee voted 7-4 against adding the amendment to the bill as it heads for debate on the House floor today.

Among hundreds of proposed amendments to the legislation, Amendment 66 would have provided $10 million to the Department of Energy and $5 million to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for nuclear waste disposal activities under Title I of the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The money would come from the Nuclear Waste Fund, the federal account intended to pay for a deep geologic repository for the nation’s spent nuclear power reactor fuel and high-level waste from defense nuclear operations.

“This amendment would start us moving back to the process of how do we resolve our nuclear waste liabilities and responsibilities,” Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said in testimony before the committee. Shimkus sponsored the amendment with Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.).

The Energy Department in 2008 filed its repository license application for review and potential approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, the Obama administration defunded the proceeding two years later. The Trump administration has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to persuade Congress to appropriate money to resume licensing.

The White House for fiscal 2020 requested roughly $150 million at DOE and the NRC for licensing. The House energy and water appropriations bill, now wrapped into the minibus, would instead provide close to $50 million for separate integrated waste treatment activities, with $25 million to advance consolidated interim storage of spent fuel.

A Shimkus spokesman said Wednesday that the lawmaker and his colleagues are discussing next steps for securing funds for licensing the repository.