Republican News

Republican News

Washington, D.C. – Senate Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Pete V. Domenici today introduced his “Nuclear Waste Acceleration to Yucca” legislation, NU-WAY, in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
 
Below is the prepared text of Chairman Domenici’s speech:
 
“Today my fellow Senators I am introducing legislation that I believe will place the Department of Energy’s nuclear waste program back on track.  As we all know, the history of the Yucca Mountain project has been rocky at best. 
 
“The Yucca Mountain project has a very long pedigree, starting back to the late 1950’s when the National Academy of Sciences reported to the Atomic Energy Commission suggesting that burying radioactive high-level waste in geologic formations should receive consideration.
 
“In the 1980’s, when Congress decided to pursue a geologic repository, we were quite optimistic – so optimistic that we told the Department of Energy (DOE) to enter into contracts with utilities that promised that we would begin taking nuclear waste off their hands by 1998.  Well, obviously that didn’t happen.  What did happen was that the Courts found that the government is liable for its failure to meet its contractual obligation.
 
“While moving more slowly than planned, DOE’s nuclear waste program has made progress toward making the goal of a permanent geologic repository for nuclear waste a reality.  In 2002, the President and Congress approved the Yucca Mountain site, and instructed DOE to file a license application for the repository with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  That decision has been made.
 
“With the siting decision made, it will now be up to the NRC to evaluate the scientific data and determine whether the repository will permanently, and safely, isolate nuclear waste.
 
“Yucca Mountain is the cornerstone of our national comprehensive spent nuclear fuel management strategy for this country.  Let me be clear: We need Yucca Mountain.  We must make this program work.  I believe the bill introduced today will do that.
 
“This bill will remove legal barriers that will allow DOE to meet its obligation to accept and store spent nuclear fuel as soon as possible, without prejudging the outcome of the NRC’s repository licensing decision.
 
“The bill I will introduce today authorizes the DOE to permanently withdraw 147,000 acres currently controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Air Force, and the Nevada Test Site, a license condition of the NRC.
 
“This legislation will repeal the arbitrary 70,000 metric ton statutory limit on emplacement of radioactive material at Yucca Mountain. The capacity of the mountain will be determined by scientific and technical analysis.
 
“The DOE may also begin construction of needed infrastructure for the repository and surface storage facilities as soon as they complete an environmental impact statement that evaluates these activities.
 
“This legislation will begin to consolidate the defense waste and spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain.  The bill requires DOE to file for a permit to build a surface storage facility at the Nevada Test Site at the same time it files its license application for a repository at Yucca Mountain. 
 
“As soon as the department receives the permit for the surface storage facilities from the NRC, the department may begin moving defense fuel and waste to the Nevada Test Site.  The spent nuclear fuel from our Navy and defense activities that kept us safe during the Cold War will be consolidated and secure at the site. 
 
“Only after the NRC issues a construction permit for Yucca Mountain, may the department begin moving civilian spent fuel to the Nevada Test Site. 
 
“This bill will withdraw the land for the rail route for Yucca, a vital transportation component.   There is a provision that also provides that appropriations from the Nuclear Waste Fund will not count against the allocations for discretionary spending.  The DOE will have access to the full funds in the Nuclear Waste Fund, monies collected from our constituents, to complete this project.
 
“This bill compliments the short, medium, and long term components of the nuclear fuel cycle that I began to talk about this past summer.  The thinking of how to handle nuclear spent fuel in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and the way we approached its management is changing, we need to acknowledge that change.   
 
“In the short term, according to DOE’s most optimistic schedule, the NRC’s construction permit will not be issued until 2011. The Consolidated and Preparation “CAP” proposal in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill begins to enable DOE to fulfill its contractual liability for spent fuel storage before DOE can move spent fuel to Yucca Mountain by providing new authorities for DOE to accept and store civilian spent nuclear fuel within the states in which it was generated.
 
“In the mid term, this legislation lays the foundation to integrate Yucca Mountain and Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) by providing that before spent fuel is shipped to Nevada, the Secretary of Energy determines if it can be recycled within a reasonable amount of time.  Current plans for GNEP do not include recycling all 55,000 metric tons of civilian spent fuel that has already been generated. This proposal will avoid moving waste to Nevada that should be shipped instead to a GNEP facility. 
 
“In the long term, this measure provides DOE with the authorities needed to execute the Yucca Mountain project, and to begin long term emplacement, while the GNEP program will reduce the volume of material to be emplaced in the mountain, eliminating the need for a second repository program. 
 
“The three pieces of the fuel cycle that I have discussed today – interim storage, GNEP and Yucca Mountain -- will establish a comprehensive program that will provide confidence that our nation’s nuclear waste will be managed safely both for current and future reactors. 
 
“We can solve this problem and I hope we can move forward together.”
 
 
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