Four US senators introduced a long-awaited bill Thursday which would
create a new federal agency to manage nuclear waste and authorizes the
construction of both interim and permanent waste facilities funded by fees
from nuclear power ratepayers.
"This bill takes immediate steps to more safely store the most dangerous
radioactive waste and lays out a clear plan for a permanent solution,"
Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and chairman of the Energy and Natural
Resources Committee, said in a statement.
Wyden's committee plans to hold a hearing on the bill next month.
Wyden introduced the bill with Senators Lisa Murkowski, the top
Republican on the energy committee, as well Dianne Feinstein, a California
Democrat, and Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, the senior lawmakers
on the subcommittee that sets the Energy Department's budget.
The bill would create a new Nuclear Waste Administration, headed by a
single administrator and overseen by a five-member board, which would take
responsibility of managing nuclear waste from the DOE.
The new agency would be funded by potentially hundreds of millions in
new fees collected from nuclear power ratepayers and end the federal
government's currently costly process of handling waste, Feinstein said.
"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,"
Spent nuclear fuel is currently stored at numerous commercial nuclear
facilities around the US due to a lack of a central repository, while waste
from US nuclear weapons programs is stored at different DOE sites.
According to a summary of the bill, an estimated $765 million per year
in fees from utilities would be used to set up a new Working Capital Fund at
The bill would allow construction of an interim storage facility for
waste from decommissioned nuclear power plants and emergency shipments from
operating plants until a permanent repository is built, a provision which
thwarted similar nuclear waste legislation in the previous congress. The new
agency would also build at least one temporary storage facility for
"non-priority" spent fuel for utilities or defense wastes for DOE.
The bill would create a "consent-based process for siting nuclear waste
facilities," which includes state and local agreements and public hearings,
according to the summary. Siting for an interim facility for priority waste
would be launched immediately and there would be no waste volume restrictions
on storage, according to the bill. The agency would be permitted to site
interim facilities for non-priority waste for 10 years as long as funds have
been obligated for a parallel process to site a permanent facility, according
to the summary.
The senators released a draft of the bill in April, which they said
received more than 2,500 public comments. The bill introduced Thursday is
largely the same as the draft version, but there are some changes. For
example, the five-member oversight board overseeing the new waste agency
would be independent, rather than made up of federal officials as in the
--Brian Scheid, email@example.com
--Edited by Jason Lindquist, firstname.lastname@example.org