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Blue ribbon panel calls for new approach to nuclear waste disposal; APPA, other industry stakeholders applaud


From the January 30, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published January 30, 2012

A presidential commission called for a new strategy for managing spent nuclear fuel, including a consent-based approach to siting a permanent and interim repositories. In a Jan. 26 report, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future recommended creating a new congressionally chartered organization to take over the nuclear waste management program from the Department of Energy. The commission’s key recommendations were endorsed by nuclear energy industry stakeholders.

Three recommendations, in particular, should be given high priority, said APPA, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Nuclear Energy Institute, Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and Edison Electric Institute in a joint statement. They are:

  • assured access by the nuclear waste management program to the revenues—some $750 million per year—generated by consumers’ continuing fee payments and to the balance in the Nuclear Waste Fund;
  • prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated interim storage facilities; and
  • a new, congressionally chartered federal corporation dedicated solely to implementing the waste management program and empowered with the authority and resources to succeed.

If implemented in the near term, those actions "would create a solid foundation on which to build a sustainable used fuel management program while development of a repository is pursued," the associations said.

Actions can be taken to encourage and achieve consolidated interim storage in a willing host community within the next 10 years, well before a repository could be opened, the stakeholders said. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s review of DOE’s license application for the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository should be completed to determine whether it is a suitable site, the industry groups said. The commission was specifically not tasked with rendering any opinion on the suitability of Yucca Mountain or proposing any specific site for a waste management facility.

Past experience with siting "suggests that any attempt to force a top-down, federally mandated solution over the objections of a state or community...will take longer, cost more, and have lower odds of ultimate success," the commission said.

Although many of the commission’s recommendations require congressional action to be fully implemented, "the Energy Department, under existing authority, can and should take action immediately to advance the recommendations," the stakeholders said.

House and Senate committees will begin hearings this week on the commission plan. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, lauded the recommendation for a new nuclear waste organization "that's protected from political influence or annual funding bills to handle nuclear waste disposal. I think that's an idea that's overdue."

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