WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019 discussion draft. The discussion draft provides practical reforms to the nation’s nuclear waste management policy to ensure the federal government’s legal obligations to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste are fulfilled.

“Nuclear energy is critical if we are going to reduce carbon emissions in a meaningful way,” said Barrasso. “Last Congress, bipartisan legislation to support America’s nuclear innovators was passed and signed into law. The law of the land requires Washington to take responsibility to manage and dispose of spent nuclear fuel. Spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste is currently stored in 39 states across the country. It’s time for Washington to fulfill its long-overdue promise to permanently and safely dispose of spent nuclear fuel.

“My draft legislation takes commonsense steps to advance the licensing of the Yucca Mountain facility. The legislation also strengthens the nation’s nuclear waste management program. After years of Washington looking the other way, it’s time to protect American ratepayers and taxpayers. Next week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the draft legislation. I look forward to continuing this important conversation at the hearing.”

The draft legislation mirrors the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, introduced last Congress by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-15). Last year, that legislation passed the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support by a vote of 340-72.

The discussion draft legislation will:

• Assist in the resolution of the pending Yucca Mountain license, which will allow the formal licensing process to determine if the repository can be licensed and constructed;
• Reform a broken financing mechanism to protect ratepayers and assure DOE has adequate funding to construct and operate a multi-generational infrastructure project;
• Direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to move forward with a temporary storage program to consolidate spent nuclear fuel from sites with a decommissioned reactor while work on the Yucca Mountain repository progresses, including the authority to enter into a contract with a non-federal entity;
• Provide the state of Nevada and local stakeholders the opportunity to beneficially engage with the Federal government as the host State for the repository;
• Provide the most expeditious pathway to remove defense-waste from DOE sites; and
• Strengthen DOE program management and organization to more effectively implement its nuclear waste program.

Read the draft legislation here.

Read a section-by-section of the draft legislation here.

Background Information:

Spent nuclear fuel sits idle in 121 communities across 39 states because the country has not fulfilled its obligation to develop a permanent geologic repository to dispose of the waste.

The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and many others have called for the federal government to proceed with the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain facility.

On January 14, 2019, President Trump signed Barrasso’s legislation, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), into law. NEIMA will provide the public greater clarity into the process by which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) develops its budget and recovers its costs through fees. The bill requires the NRC to establish performance metrics and milestones for licensing and other regulatory actions.