Latest Posts

Norris McDonald Testifying at BRC Hearing in Washington, DC
President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) has issued its final report. Fully implementing the Commission’s recommendations will require several changes to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act or other legislation:

Establishing a new facility siting process – The NWPA, as amended in 1987, now provides only for the evaluation and licensing of a single repository site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The Act should be amended to authorize a new consent-based process to be used for selecting and evaluating sites and licensing consolidated storage and disposal facilities in the future, similar to the process established in the expired Nuclear Waste Negotiator provisions of the Act (but under new organizational leadership, as described below).

Authorizing consolidated interim storage facilities – The NWPA allows the government to construct one consolidated storage facility with limited capacity, but only after construction of a nuclear waste repository has been licensed. One or more consolidated storage facilities should be established, independent of the schedule for opening a repository.

The Act should be modified to allow for a consent-based process to site, license, and construct multiple storage facilities with adequate capacity when needed and to clarify that nuclear waste fee payments can be used for this purpose. Broadening support to jurisdictions affected by transportation – The NWPA provides funding and technical assistance for training public safety officials to states and tribes whose jurisdictions would be traversed by shipments of spent fuel to a storage or disposal facility.

The Act should be amended to give the waste management organization the broader authorities given to DOE in the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act that supported the successful large-scale transport of transuranic waste to WIPP (including a public information program, support for the acquisition of equipment to respond to transportation incidents, and broad assistance for other waste-related transportation safety programs).

Establishing a new waste management organization – Responsibility for implementing the nation’s program for managing spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive wastes is currently assigned to the U.S. Department of Energy. Legislation will be needed to (1) move this responsibility to a new, independent, government-chartered corporation focused solely on carrying out that program and (2) establish the appropriate oversight mechanisms.  [This is a Center recommendation]

Ensuring access to dedicated funding – Current federal budget rules and laws make it impossible for the nuclear waste program to have assured access to the fees being collected from nuclear utilities and ratepayers to finance the commercial share of the waste program’s expenses.

They have recommended a partial remedy that should be implemented promptly by the Administration, working with the relevant congressional committees and the Congressional Budget Office. A long-term remedy requires legislation to provide access to the Nuclear Waste Fund and fees independent of the annual appropriations process but subject to rigorous independent financial and managerial oversight.

Promoting international engagement to support safe and secure waste management – Congress may need to provide policy direction and new legislation to implement some measures aimed at helping other countries manage radioactive wastes in a safe, secure, and proliferationresistant manner, similar to the expired NWPA provisions for technical assistance to non-nuclear weapons states in the area of spent nuclear fuel storage and disposal. (BRC)