House Committee Forwards Nuclear Waste Amendment Act

An amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, which established Yucca Mountain as the priority site of permanent spent nuclear waste storage, has made it out of the committee stage in the House of Representatives.

Storage poolOn Wednesday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who introduced the initial version of the amendment – his third attempt at promoting similar legislation – would break more than 30 years of impasses on the movement of nuclear waste to a permanent storage site. The primary advancement in this bill, called the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, is the establishment of first-step storage sites that would be used on an interim basis until a long term site is ready for use. The Nuclear Policy Act of 1982 did not include permission for interim federal storage facilities.

The House has not scheduled a floor debate on the bill. Issa, nonetheless, could not get two previous attempts at an amendment through the committee stage of the legislation process. His office announced he was optimistic that the current bill had a chance of becoming law.

“The move today makes it clear that the last 30 years of obstruction over any and every plan to get nuclear waste out of our communities is over,” Issa said.

Issa's congressional district covers San Clemente, Calif., which is a near neighbor to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, where stored waste lingers with no federal repository in sight.

The amendment provides $50 million or 10 percent of the appropriated amounts from the Nuclear Waste Fun to provide interim storage facilities for fiscal years 2020 through 2025. It also allows the Energy Secretary to enter into agreements with private companies for interim storage of nuclear waste “when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision on Yucca Mountain is 'imminent' and allows for an interim storage agreement to move forward even if a final decision on Yucca Mountain is ultimately denied.

The logjam on an federal repository could be undone with temporary storage facilities that allow nuclear power plants to move spent fuel off of their campuses and into temporary storage elsewhere. This move would effectively expedite the transfer of ownership of the spent waste from private utilities, funded by ratepayers, to the federal government. This could force the government's hand on the creation of a permanent federal repository.

The amendment also “prioritizes removing waste from shuttered plants,” Issa's office said. It also clarifies issues on regulatory permit requirements concerning permanent storage at Yucca Mountain.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., is working on similar legislation, which has been tagged as a priority for the Trump administration, which has asked for $120 million in the next federal budget to go towards licensing Yucca Mountain.

President of Southern California Edison Ronald Nichols issued Wednesday. We are encouraged to see the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act progress,” he said. “And look forward to the Senate re-introduction of the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, co-authored by Sen. Feinstein.”

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