House duo: Congress, industry must address nuclear-waste storage needs

Two U.S. House members told 800 power-industry leaders attending the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) annual conference last week that now is the time for Congress and the industry to tackle used-nuclear-fuel policy.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), ch airman of the House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee  said there is bipartisan support to create a federal repository for used uranium fuel. U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) said management of used nuclear fuel is the industry's top challenge.

Their remarks came just a week after the House approved appropriations legislation for fiscal 2016 that includes $150 million for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to continue licensing activity for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.

Shimkus said the NRC’s issuance of a key safety evaluation of Yucca Mountain is significant.

“The safety evaluation on the Yucca repository shows it will be safe for one million years,” Shimkus said. "How dare we take that off the table."

Interest in used-nuclear-fuel policy has intensified in Congress recently with the court-ordered suspension of Nuclear Waste Fund fees and the announced retirement of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Earlier this year, the Department of Energy announced a plan to develop two storage sites for high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs and commercial used fuel.

Clyburn said nuclear energy’s clean-air attributes and technology are vital to the nation’s infrastructure, but that its biggest challenge remains used-fuel management.

“The future of this industry depends upon our ability to solve the nuclear waste issue,” Clyburn said.

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