Four U.S. senators, including Lamar Alexander, introduced a bipartisan, comprehensive plan this week that they said would safeguard and permanently dispose of tens of thousands of tons of dangerous radioactive nuclear waste currently accumulating at sites dispersed across the country.
A press release said the proposal, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, would establish a new nuclear waste administration and create a consent-based process for siting nuclear waste facilities. It would also enable the federal government to “address its commitment to managing commercial nuclear waste, limiting the costly liability the government bears for its failure to dispose of commercial spent fuel.
“The integrated storage and repository system established by this legislation will expand opportunities for nuclear power to supply low-carbon energy, and will provide long-term protection of public health and safety for both commercial and defense high-level waste,” the release said.
The press release said there is currently no central repository for spent nuclear fuel, leaving fuel rods to be stored on-site at dozens of commercial nuclear facilities around the country, including areas that are at risk of earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters.
“Millions of gallons of high-level radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear weapons programs are also being stored at U.S. Department of Energy sites around the country,” the release said. “The 2011 Fukushima disaster, combined with recent announcements of new radioactive waste leaks at the Hanford Site in Washington state add to the urgency of securing spent fuel and finding permanent repository for the nation’s nuclear waste.”
The bill updates an April draft. It’s a collaboration between Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and senators Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat; Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat; and Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, the press release said. Alexander and Feinstein are the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Wyden is chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Murkowski is a ranking member.
The press release said the Energy committee, which has received more than 2,500 public comments on the measure, is planning a hearing on the bill in July.
Here are comments from the senators:
“Stalemate can’t solve our nation’s nuclear waste issues,” Wyden said. “This bill takes immediate steps to more safely store the most dangerous radioactive waste, and lays out a clear plan for a permanent solution.”
“By moving forward on interim storage and a permanent repository through parallel tracks, the federal government can send a strong signal to utilities, rate payers, and the American public that we will meet our obligations on used nuclear fuel,” Murkowski said.
“This bipartisan bill—years in the making—will finally begin to address the dangerous, expensive absence of a comprehensive nuclear waste policy,” Feinstein said. “In addition to creating an independent Nuclear Waste Administration to manage nuclear waste, the bill authorizes the construction of interim storage facilities and permanent waste repositories, sited through a consent-based process and funded by fees currently collected from nuclear power ratepayers. The inability of the federal government to collect waste stored across the country at functioning power plants, decommissioned reactors and federal facilities is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It’s time to finally put a policy in place to address this problem.”
“After 25 years of stalemate, this legislation puts us back on the road to finding safe places to dispose of used nuclear fuel,” Alexander said. “It does this in the obvious way: by making local, state and federal governments equal partners in the process of finding temporary and permanent storage for nuclear waste. This is important because nuclear power provides 60 percent of our reliable, air-pollution-free electricity.”