A bipartisan quartet of senators unveiled their anticipated nuclear waste legislation Thursday, which seeks to break a logjam on how to handle piles of spent fuel accumulating at reactors across the country.
“Stalemate can’t solve our nation’s nuclear waste issues. This bill takes immediate steps to more safely store the most dangerous radioactive waste, and lays out a clear plan for a permanent solution,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the four lawmakers working on the bill, said in a statement.
The sponsors will move the bill through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and plan to hold a hearing on it next month. But the legislation faces a tough path in the Senate, let alone the House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is a longtime opponent of a proposal that would create a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and backed President Obama’s 2010 decision to pull the plug on federal reviews to use it for storing waste.
The Senate bill makes no mention of Yucca — save for the background section — and instead calls for states and communities to apply to hold the nation’s nuclear waste.
But House Republicans are insistent that any nuclear waste legislation must identify Yucca as the nation’s sole permanent repository, as outlined in a 1982 federal law.
That position could kill Senate momentum, as a Senate Democratic leadership aide recently told The Hill that any bill could not be a backdoor way to restarting Yucca.
The Senate legislation largely implements the findings of an independent panel formed by President Obama in 2009.
It would transfer oversight of nuclear waste from the Energy Department to a new federal agency, allow local communities or states to apply to store the nation’s nuclear waste and set conditions for moving waste.