Alexander outlines priorities for NRC to tackle

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, issued an opening statement Wednesday during a subcommittee hearing to review the president’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The hearing marked the first of several the subcommittee will hold this year on nuclear power, an industry that provides about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and more than 60 percent of its carbon-free electricity.

Alexander focused his presentation on four main areas, including nuclear waste repository licensing, excessive regulation avoidance, new and existing reactor licensing, and agency efficiency.

The senator stressed the importance of solving the 25-year-old question of what to do with used fuel from nuclear reactors and said he will be reintroducing bipartisan legislation with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to create temporary and permanent storage sites for nuclear waste.

The Nuclear Waste Fund currently has an unspent balance of about $36 billion, however, but several steps remain in the licensing process for Yucca Mountain, a decades-long site plan to house a permanent, geologically isolated storage facility in Nevada.

“The new sites we’d seek to establish through the legislation Senator Feinstein and I are reintroducing this year would not take the place of Yucca Mountain — we have more than enough waste to fill Yucca Mountain to its legal capacity — but rather would complement it,” Alexander said.

Moving forward, Alexander highlighted the significance nuclear energy plays in the coming decades, proposing  the construction of 100 new reactors and a call to the commission to move forward with new smaller modular reactors.

“Japan and Germany have recently experienced what happens when a major manufacturing country loses its nuclear capacity. In Japan, the cost of generating electricity has increased 56 percent, and Germany has among the highest household electricity rates in the European Union – both because they moved away from nuclear power,” Alexander said. “It will take building more nuclear reactors to avoid the path of Japan and Germany, and today’s hearing is an important step to making sure the United States does what it must to unleash nuclear power.”


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