Appropriators asked to start seeking willing homes for spent fuel

Several members of the House of Representatives in states with permanently retired nuclear reactors have asked a House Appropriations subcommittee to include funds in the next budget to search for communities willing to host a nuclear waste site.

The April 2 letter was addressed to Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Ohio) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). Simpson chairs the committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Kaptur is the ranking Democrat on that panel.

“As you know, the federal government has been determined to be in continuing breach of the contractual obligation created by the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) to remove this material [spent nuclear fuel or SNF and greater than Class C waste or GTCC] beginning in January 1998,” the members of Congress said.

Since then the U.S. Court of Claims “has consistently ruled in favor of companies for expenditures they have incurred in the continuing storage of these materials,” the lawmakers said. “If the federal government continues to be in breach of its contract obligations, the resulting impact on taxpayers is expected to reach or exceed $20 billion by 2020,” the say in the letter.

This situation was made more vexing for communities with “stranded” nuclear waste when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) determined in 2009 that Yucca Mountain in Nevada is “unworkable” as a spent fuel repository.

“We ask that the FY 15 Energy and Water Appropriations bill include sufficient funds for the DOE to enter into discussions with potential host communities, tribes, and states that might have interest in participating in the nation’s storage and disposal program for these materials,” the lawmakers write.

Appropriators are also asked to “direct the establishment of a pilot consolidated storage program with a priority to remove SNF and GTCC waste from these permanently shut-down facilities,” according to the letter.

Such a process would be in keeping with the path forward recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, the lawmakers said.

The letter was signed by Reps. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Michael Michaud (D-Maine), Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), all of whom represent states with shutdown reactors.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.