Washington (February 7, 2018) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) reintroduced two pieces of legislation today to improve the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation. This legislation comes on the heels of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s analysis released today that provides guidance on how to safely take a nuclear plant offline. In May 2017, Senator Markey, Sanders and Gillibrand reintroduced the Dry Cask Storage Act, legislation that would ensure that every nuclear reactor operator complies with an NRC-approved plan that would improve the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation.


The Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2018, introduced by Harris, and cosponsored by Sanders, Gillibrand, and Markey, would prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from issuing waivers or granting exceptions from complying with safety and emergency preparedness regulations put forth in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 until nuclear fuel has been transferred to spent nuclear fuel dry casks. 


The Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2018, introduced by Sanders, and cosponsored by Harris, Markey, and Gillibrand, would ensure that states and local communities have a meaningful role in the crafting and preparation of decommissioning plans for retired nuclear plants located in those areas. The bill also requires NRC to publicly and transparently approve or reject every proposed decommissioning plan, which it currently is not required to do.


The Dry Cask Storage Act, introduced in 2017 by Markey, and co-sponsored by Sanders and Gillibrand, would ensure that every nuclear reactor operator complies with an NRC-approved plan that would require the safe removal of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pools and place that spent fuel into dry cask storage within seven years of the time the plan is submitted to the NRC. The legislation also provides funding to help reactor licensees implement the plans and expands the emergency planning zone for non-compliant reactor operators to 50 miles.


“As nuclear power reactors like San Onofre undergo the decommissioning process, we must ensure that every necessary measure is taken to protect the surrounding communities and environment,” said Senator Harris. “This bill ensures that decommissioning nuclear power cites process adhere to commonsense safety precautions that have been on the books for decades.”


“Communities experiencing the safety and economic impacts of nuclear plant decommissioning deserve a role in shaping those decommissioning plans for nuclear reactors near them,” said Senator Sanders. “This input is especially critical given the potential for non-operational plants to sit for decades before removal and decontamination. The Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2018 would transform a process that is weighted almost entirely toward the power plant licensees into one that strikes a reasonable balance between licensees and the impacted communities.”


“Americans should know that safety is the most important priority at nuclear power plants across the country, including at plants that are being decommissioned,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2018 and The Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2018 would ensure that decommissioning nuclear plants are not exempted from existing safety and emergency planning regulations until the spent nuclear fuel is in dry cask storage and give states and local communities a meaningful role in the development of decommissioning plans. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting both pieces of legislation to help ensure that safety, security and environmental protections are not weakened while plants undergo the decommissioning process.”


“Overcrowded spent nuclear fuel pools like the one at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts are a disaster waiting to happen,” said Senator Markey. “Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool contains nearly four times more radioactive waste than it was originally designed to hold. We need the NRC to post the ‘Danger’ sign outside these fuel pools and ensure dangerous nuclear waste is moved to safer storage before a nuclear disaster occurs. I thank Senators Sanders, Harris, and Gillibrand for their partnership on these important pieces of safety legislation.”