A trio of U.S. senators on Tuesday took a third swing at legislation that would remove management of the federal nuclear waste program from the Department of Energy in hopes of finally driving it forward.
The 2019 version of the Nuclear Waste Administration Act appears identical to the iterations of the bill introduced in 2013 and 2015. Both those measures died in committee.
“Our bipartisan legislation will ensure the federal government finally fulfills its obligation to address the back-end of the fuel cycle. I thank my colleagues for once again coming together to lead on this important issue, and look forward to holding a hearing on this legislation in the near future,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who sponsored the bill with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), said in a press release.
If approved in this Congress, the legislation would, among other things: establish a new federal organization responsible for siting, licensing, building, and operating waste facilities; require local consent in siting such facilities, almost certainly putting a final stop to the planned Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada; require construction of a pilot storage facility for priority waste, at least one storage site for nonpriority waste, and at least one permanent repository for the waste; and keep the door open for separate disposal sites for commercial and defense waste.
The recommendations are derived from the 2012 recommendations of the Obama administration’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
Murkowski, Feinstein, and Alexander were among the sponsors for the 2013 and 2015 bills.
The Department of Energy legally is on the hook for disposing of what is now roughly 100,000 metric tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors and high-level radioactive waste from defense nuclear operations. The department does not yet have a license for its preferred repository at Yucca Mountain, and the licensing proceeding has been defunded for the better part of a decade. Two corporate teams are seeking Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses for facilities that could consolidate the used fuel until the repository is ready.