US legislature considers waste management reforms

21 November 2019

Draft legislation to update the US Department of Energy's (DOE) ability to manage nuclear waste - passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday - would allow DOE to build and operate interim storage sites to consolidate used fuel from decommissioned reactors. Similar draft legislation has now been introduced in the US Senate.

The Capitol: home to the US House of Representatives and Senate (Image: Architect of the Capitol)

The two versions of the draft legislation, HR 2699 and S 2197, which are both titled the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, seek to amend a 1982 act, under which the federal government - through the DOE - is responsible for all civil used nuclear fuel and its removal for disposal in a federal facility.

HR 2699 would prioritise the transfer of used fuel from seismically active areas, and permit DOE to undertake infrastructure activities to support the construction and operation of a repository at Yucca Mountain. The bill also includes reforms to the finance mechanism of the Nuclear Waste Fund and assures that DOE has adequate funding to construct and operate a repository.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone said: "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."

S 2197, referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, would advance the safety review of Yucca Mountain as well as strengthening the USA's nuclear waste management programme. The draft legislation mirrors the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, which last year passed the House of Representatives.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said: "The House of Representatives has advanced a bipartisan bill out of committee. I look forward to gaining similar bipartisan support in the Senate."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News