Markey, Levin introduce spent fuel legislation

September 30, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions



Sen. Edward J. Markey (D., Mass.) and Rep. Mike Levin (D., Calif.) have introduced the Nuclear Waste Task Force Act. The legislation is intended to establish a new task force to consider the implications of amending the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to remove exemptions from environmental laws for nuclear waste. Eliminating this loophole could help enable consent-based siting of long-term storage solutions for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, the lawmakers said.

Intended to continue the work of 2012's Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, the task force would also be responsible for providing a clear explanation of what constitutes “consent-based siting.”

Announcement of the bill, on September 28, comes less than a week after the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report calling on Congress to act to break the impasse over a permanent solution for commercial spent nuclear fuel.

Exemptions: Currently, under the Atomic Energy Act, radioactive materials are exempted from the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recover Act. “By removing exemptions from environmental laws for nuclear waste, protective federal environmental, health, and welfare standards can work in tandem with state-level decision-making on where and how high-level nuclear waste could be stored,” a joint press release from Markey and Levin states. “The Nuclear Waste Task Force would help determine if such an action would jumpstart more productive efforts to enable consent-based siting of geologic repositories.”

Task force: Under the language of the bill, the task force would be established through the Environmental Protection Agency and be composed of no more than 30 members representing federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies; nongovernmental organizations; unions; and the private sector. Federal members would include representatives from the EPA, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Department of Transportation.

They said it: “Storing all of our nation’s nuclear waste is a hard sell for any state, especially when it’s exempt from bedrock environmental laws,” said Markey. “Enabling consent-based storage is the key to developing real, practical solutions for the long-term storage of nuclear waste. This nuclear waste task force will play a critical role in determining how to make that happen.”

Levin added, “The current system of spent nuclear fuel storage is not sustainable, particularly for sites that no longer have operating reactors and could be redeveloped for other beneficial uses, such as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The current system is also a violation of the promise, codified decades ago, that the federal government would take title to the waste in return for ratepayers’ contributions to the Nuclear Waste Fund.”

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