Rep. Jamaal Bowman during a hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy.
The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing last week to evaluate the Department of Energy’s approach to research and development on new strategies and technologies to support the nuclear waste cleanup mission of its Office of Environmental Management (EM).
An aerial view of Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant in 2021. (Photo: Bechtel National)
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 21 struck down a Washington state workers’ compensation law that was designed to make it easier for workers at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site to receive compensation benefits. The court, by unanimous decision, found that the law violates the U.S. Supremacy Clause and discriminates against the federal government and its contractors.
Located near Richland, Wash., the Hanford Site produced plutonium for the U.S. weapons program for more than 40 years and is currently undergoing a massive radiological cleanup mission involving around 10,000 workers.
From left, Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Paul Chodak, and Michael J. Guastella appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on November 4.
As Congress awaited key votes yesterday on spending bills that include production tax credits for at-risk plants and a new amendment adding $500 million in supplemental funding over five years to increase the availability of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a Full Committee Hearing On Potential Non-Electric Applications Of Civilian Nuclear Energy. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.), chairman of the committee, emphasized that “advanced nuclear reactors hold enormous potential to provide opportunity to communities across the country with zero-emission baseload power” and made it clear he expects new reactors to replace retiring coal plants in his home state of West Virginia.
Speaking before the committee were Shannon Bragg-Sitton of Idaho National Laboratory, Paul Chodak III of American Electric Power, and Michael J. Guastella of the Council of Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals.
Spent nuclear fuel in dry storage at the decommissioned Zion nuclear power plant in Illinois.
Congress needs to take action to break the impasse over a permanent solution for commercial spent nuclear fuel, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO recommends that Congress amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) to authorize a new consent-based siting process, restructure the Nuclear Waste Fund, and direct the Department of Energy to develop and implement an integrated waste management strategy.
The GAO also recommends that the DOE finalize the consent-based process it began in 2015 for siting consolidated interim storage and permanent geologic repository facilities. The DOE agrees with that recommendation.
Dry cask storage at the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California. Photo: Southern California Edison
Saying they are cautiously optimistic that the Biden administration can change the U.S. trajectory on nuclear waste, some Stanford University experts have offered their recommendations on how it can be done in a recent Stanford news posting.
Strategic federal investment in nuclear research and development is needed to rapidly deploy cost-effective, flexible energy choices for a zero-carbon future while strengthening national security and the economy.
The ANS Task Force on Public Investment in Nuclear Research and Development has just issued a report titled “The U.S. Nuclear R&D Imperative.” Visit ans.org/policy/rndreport/ to learn more and to read the report in its entirety.
The following article, originally published in the February 2021 issue of Nuclear News, describes the formation of the Task Force and the principles that guided its members as they developed specific nuclear R&D funding recommendations to ensure that a new generation of nuclear energy technologies is ready for deployment in 2030 and beyond.