Currently, the United States has no permanent geologic repository for disposal of high-level nuclear waste
Washington (September 28, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chair of the Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Congressman Mike Levin (CA-49) today introduced the Nuclear Waste Task Force Act, legislation to establish a new task force to consider the implications of amending the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to remove exemptions from environmental laws for nuclear waste. Eliminating this loophole could help enable consent-based siting of long-term storage solutions for nuclear waste. The task force would also be responsible for providing a clear explanation of what constitutes “consent-based siting.”
“When it comes to the storage of nuclear waste, siting decisions must be rooted in geological science, not political science. After years of pushback and concern from the scientific community, it is clear that Yucca Mountain is a delusion, not a destination for nuclear waste. Storing all of our nation’s nuclear waste is a hard sell for any state, especially when it’s exempt from bedrock environmental laws,” said Senator Markey. “Enabling consent-based storage is the key to developing real, practical solutions for the long-term storage of nuclear waste. This nuclear waste task force will play a critical role in determining how to make that happen.”
“The current system of spent nuclear fuel storage is not sustainable, particularly for sites that no longer have operating reactors and could be redeveloped for other beneficial uses, such as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,” said Representative Levin. “The current system is also a violation of the promise, codified decades ago, that the federal government would take title to the waste in return for ratepayers’ contributions to the Nuclear Waste Fund. Clearly, the federal government has failed to meet that responsibility and it’s time for that to change. We must advance a consent-based path to long-term disposal, and exploring this pathway to consent is a critical step in that process. I know that doing so can move the ball forward on that step and help solve our storage challenges once and for all.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
After 60 years of civilian nuclear power, the United States still has no long-term solution for high-level nuclear waste. In 1987, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to designate Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the only location to be considered by the Department of Energy to construct a national high-level nuclear waste repository. However, concerns from the scientific community, as well as political and legal opposition, have halted that effort. Absent a long-term storage solution, commercial nuclear power plants—including the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts—are paying millions of dollars a year to store dangerous spent nuclear fuel on site using wet pool and dry cask storage methods.
Last week, the U.S. Government Accountability released a report calling on Congress to act to break the impasse over a permanent solution for commercial spent nuclear fuel. The fact that theAtomic Energy Act currently exempts radioactive material from the Clean Water Act andResource Conservation and Recovery Act is concerning to communities faced with the possibility of storing nuclear waste. By removing exemptions from environmental laws for nuclear waste, protective federal environmental, health, and welfare standards can work in tandem with state-level decision-making on where and how high-level nuclear waste could be stored. The Nuclear Waste Task Force would help determine if such an action would jumpstart more productive efforts to enable consent-based siting of geologic repositories.