Environment subcommittee examines draft legislation to restart Yucca Mountain project

Published on May 01, 2017 by Daily Energy Insider Reports

The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing recently to discuss draft legislation that would provide reforms to the nation’s nuclear waste management, including resuming the licensing process of the Yucca Mountain storage site.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 follows seven held by the Environment Subcommittee in the 114th Congress to inform its efforts to draft legislation to provide a comprehensive solution for the disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level waste.

“The discussion draft of the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 would make important and desirable changes to the country’s framework for waste management,” Steven Nesbit, chairman of the Backend Working Group at the Nuclear Infrastructure Council, said. “Congress should appropriate funding to the DOE and the NRC to restart the Yucca Mountain licensing process.”

Thirty-four states have paid over $160 million to the Department of Energy (DOE) to dispose of commercial spent nuclear fuel and costs are growing, full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said. Although Congress approved the Yucca Mountain project site in 2002, the initiative has stalled.

Witnesses commented on the negative effect that having to temporarily store nuclear waste has on states and cited a Nuclear Regulatory Commission study that found the site meets safety requirements.

“The committee has heard from scores of expert witnesses over the past six years about challenges and opportunities to advance our nation’s nuclear waste management policy,” Environment Subcommittee Chair John Shimkus (R-IL) said. “This discussion draft reflects what we learned through those hearings, oversight activities and related work. However, it is just that: a discussion draft. And today we began the process of taking input from all stakeholders involved on this draft. Our goal here is to identify the right reforms to ensure we can fulfill the government’s obligation to dispose of our nation’s nuclear material.”