Morning Briefing - May 21, 2019
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May 21, 2019

Yucca Mountain Down, Not Out, in FY20 Energy Bill

By ExchangeMonitor

The House Appropriations Committee this morning will resume the debate over funding licensing of a nuclear waste repository under Yucca Mountain, Nev.

The fiscal 2020 energy and water development bill scheduled to be marked up in committee starting at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time zeroes out the White House request for roughly $150 million for licensing activities at the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Instead, it would provide $47.5 million for separate “Integrated Waste Management” operations.

But Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) will offer an amendment with money for Yucca Mountain licensing, a spokesperson said Monday. Details regarding the proposed appropriation are still being worked out.

Having won the House majority in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats have reversed the lower chamber’s prior support for Trump administration requests to fund licensing for the disposal facility.

The proposed $47.5 million would encompass $25 million “for interim storage activities, including the initiation of a robust consolidated interim storage program, including site preparation activities at stranded sites, to evaluate the re-initiation of regional transport compacts, and transportation coordination,” according to the committee report for the appropriations bill.

Integrated waste management was the core of the Obama administration’s consent-based approach for siting temporary storage and permanent disposal for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. That program would have involved pilot storage facilities, prioritizing used fuel from retired nuclear power plants; full-scale consolidated interim storage; and ultimately separate repositories for commercial and defense waste.

The Trump administration has turned back to Yucca Mountain as the final answer for managing the nation’s nuclear waste. Despite prior support from the House under GOP leadership, it has been unable yet to persuade the Senate to fund the licensing program.