House Energy Committee Advances Bill to Revive Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

Dec 2, 2019

by ASME.org

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, sending the bill to the House floor. The bill would allow the Department of Energy (DOE) to resume work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, including safety upgrades, site preparation, construction of a rail line, and grid connection. It would also allow DOE to construct interim storage sites that would consolidate spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from decommissioned reactors. There remains deep skepticism that the bill will see a vote on the House floor, as the Nevada Congressional delegation has continued to offer strong opposition to the measure.

The bill is sponsored by Congressmen Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and John Shimkus (R-IL) and has the support of 24 additional bipartisan Members of Congress. The bipartisan support is in large part due to the measure establishing temporary nuclear waste storage sites that would allow nuclear waste currently in 121 communities in 39 states to be moved to a new designated location as the Yucca Mountain storage site was being completed. Members of Congress on both sides of the isle are eager to get nuclear waste out of their communities and into predetermined outside storage facilities.

After the committee reported the bill favorably, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) released a statement of support for a permanent nuclear storage site, stating this was an important step towards moving the nation’s nuclear waste out of communities that are home to a nuclear power plant. “Communities across the country are expressing growing concern as more and more nuclear plants close, and this bill gets us closer to a real national solution for moving spent fuel to an interim facility and, ultimately, to a permanent repository.”

Two amendments were adopted before the bill was reported out of committee. The first was offered by two members of the Michigan delegation, stating that Congress should allow permanent or long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel or other radioactive waste near the Great Lakes. The second amendment was more substantial and calls for the creation of a grant program to study the epidemiological impacts of uranium mining and milling among non-occupationally exposed individuals, including family members of uranium miners and millers.

ASME will continue to monitor and report on this legislation.

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