WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, last night introduced bipartisan legislation that will allow America to fully realize the promise of nuclear energy by laying the foundation for a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle.
Domenici, along with Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska.) introduced the Strengthening Management of Advanced Recycling Technologies (SMART) Act (S.3215). The legislation promotes the establishment of privately owned and operated used nuclear fuel storage and recycling facilities.
The SMART Act establishes a competitive 50-50 cost share program between the Department of Energy (DOE) and private industry to finance engineering and design work—and the development of license applications-- for up to two spent fuel recycling facilities. The bill also establishes an economic incentive program for communities that wish to host interim storage facilities for waste. The SMART Act authorizes DOE to offer long term contracts for spent fuel recycling services and for storage facility operators.
“After a decade of hard work, there can now be no doubt that a nuclear renaissance is under way. Increasing our use of nuclear energy is the only way for America to meet our increasing energy demands while at the same time reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. A sustainable nuclear fuel cycle is the key to nuclear energy reaching its full potential. I’m pleased to introduce this legislation which takes the first step toward resolving the question of nuclear waste,” Domenici said.
“Nuclear recycling will help us permanently and safely dispose of spent fuel while simultaneously increasing the amount of nuclear material available to generate base load power. In the past, the issue of waste disposal has provided an argument to object to expanding nuclear power, and I’m hopeful this legislation will jump-start recycling in America – leading to more clean, reliable nuclear power here at home. It is time the United States caught up with other nations that have demonstrated that recycling can be conducted in a safe and cost-efficient way,” Sessions said.
“Nuclear power is one of the most promising alternative technologies that can help reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. It emits no pollutants, and does not contribute to global warming. But if we do not get serious about managing nuclear waste, the technology will not advance. This bill will finally help resolve the nuclear waste stalemate that has paralyzed U.S. nuclear energy production for more than 30 years,” Landrieu said.
“Given how important it is for this nation to cut carbon emissions, it is vital that we tear down all the roadblocks that have slowed nuclear power’s revival. Setting up a program for the government to help the private sector develop nuclear waste recycling plants, creating a funding mechanism to pay for the work and then allowing only the communities that want the economic activity that a waste recycling plant will produce to apply are all useful steps that will help the economics of nuclear power. It will allow for the economic recycling of fuel and help reduce waste volumes and their toxicity protecting the environment,” Murkowski said.
The SMART Act is funded by allowing access to a small portion (around five percent) of the $20 billion Nuclear Waste Fund. The bill establishes a $1 billion revolving fund, which will also receive contributions from annual interest on the Nuclear Waste Fund. The revolving fund will allow projects to proceed without the need for annual appropriations from Congress.