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FY 2013 Appropriations Committee Reports: Nuclear Waste Provisions

Richard M. Jones
Number 68 - May 17, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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House and Senate appropriators have completed work on the FY 2013 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.  The House and Senate reports outline contrasting approaches to the difficult issue of handling domestic nuclear waste.  Differences in funding levels and policy recommendations will be resolved in a conference between the appropriators later this year.

Language from the reports is shown below.  Paragraph breaks have been added.

House Report:

House appropriators discussed Yucca Mountain and the disposal of domestic nuclear waste in several sections of their report.  Of note, a section providing the additional views of the senior Democrats on the full committee and the subcommittee states “we commend Chairman [Rodney] Frelinghuysen [R-NJ] for the decision to provide funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal project and for including the provision to prohibit the use of funding to abandon the project. We agree that the Administration's actions to close down the project run counter to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Congress of 1982.”
 
Introduction: (page 79)

“MANAGEMENT OF NUCLEAR SPENT FUEL AND DEFENSE WASTE

“The Committee believes that the Administration's refusal to honor the requirements of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 regarding Yucca Mountain has significantly set back this country's nuclear spent fuel and waste management strategy. By unilaterally halting the Yucca Mountain High-Level Waste Geological Repository, the Administration is unable to take responsibility for this nation's spent fuel and high level waste. As a result, the Department's fiscal year 2011 Financial Report shows the estimated liability taxpayers are now faced with to be more than $19,000,000,000, nearly $4,000,000,000 more than a year ago.

“This liability will likely only grow as the full consequences of the Administration's Yucca Mountain policy become clear. In addition, high-level defense waste in sites across the country now have no disposition pathway, presenting the likelihood that the federal government will have to pay penalties to the states as deadlines for removal are missed. Finally, the credibility of the federal government has been further eroded by the Administration's actions to halt the program and its refusal to request a legislative alternative to current law.

“The Committee notes that although the Administration's Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations have not been considered in whole or in part by Congress, the Administration requests funding for several of these recommendations in an attempt to shift attention from its Yucca Mountain policy. Several proposed activities would only be necessary as a consequence of the Administration's Yucca Mountain policy, such as efforts to increase the nuclear waste confidence rule past its current 60 years. The Committee rejects all such proposals. Additionally, the bill makes clear that any activities funded from the Nuclear Waste Fund must be in support of Yucca Mountain.

“The recommendation includes $25,000,000 for Nuclear Waste Disposal to support the Yucca Mountain High-Level Waste Geological Repository, including $5,000,000 to support local communities who have formally consented to host it. The Committee includes this support in recognition that Nye County, the county which encompasses the Yucca Mountain area, has given its formal consent to host Yucca Mountain. The Committee notes that geological repositories will be needed in addition to Yucca Mountain. If the Congress provides the authority for such repositories, as well as for a consensus-based siting process, the Committee will consider support for such activities at that time. In the meantime, the bill contains a prohibition on using funds to close the Yucca Mountain license application or to take actions which would irrevocably remove Yucca Mountain as an option for a repository.”

Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Energy Research and Development: (page 92)

Fuel Cycle Research and Development. -- The Committee recommends $138,716,000 for Fuel Cycle Research and Development, $48,635,000 below fiscal year 2012 and $36,722,000 below the request. Within available funds, the recommendation includes $38,000,000, $22,000,000 below fiscal year 2012 and $21,668,000 below the budget request, for the following Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition activities:

   “Storage -- The recommendation provides $7,000,000, to be derived from the Nuclear Waste Fund and used in support of the Yucca Mountain geological repository, for development of standardized container specifications and design of standardized containers.

     “Transportation -- The recommendation provides $8,000,000 for transportation research and development and other related activities, all in support of the Yucca Mountain geological repository. Of this amount, $3,000,000 is to be derived from the Nuclear Waste Fund for work related to transportation procedures, emergency responder training, and interaction with transportation stakeholders. The remaining amount is for research and development into transportation of spent fuel following storage.

     “Disposal -- The recommendation provides $23,000,000, the same as the request, to conduct planning, research, development, demonstration and characterization of geologic disposal environments and approaches, in support of additional geological repositories that will be needed after Yucca Mountain becomes operational.

“In its fiscal year 2013 budget request for Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition, the Department includes funding for a number of activities relating to programs that would require legislative changes recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission. To date, the Department has not proposed any such legislation, nor has it proposed any comprehensive nuclear waste management plan different from that set forth in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. More importantly, Congress has not made any changes to the authorized plan of record, which continues to be Yucca Mountain. Therefore, no funding is provided for the requested activities, including extended storage research and development, activities related to consolidated interim storage, and work in preparation of voluntary siting processes.”

Nuclear Waste Disposal: (page 108)

The Committee recommendation includes $25,000,000, $25,000,000 above fiscal year 2012 and $25,000,000 above the request, to continue the Department of Energy's congressionally-mandated activities to continue the Yucca Mountain license application activity. Of this funding, $5,000,000 is available to provide assistance pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) to affected units of government which have formally provided consent to the Secretary of Energy to host a high-level geological repository as authorized in the NWPA.

“While the Committee notes that some of the recommendations of the Administration's ‘Blue Ribbon Commission’ may have merit, Congress has neither formally considered nor approved them. In addition, the implementation of many of the recommendations would require changes to authorizing statutes. Nuclear waste disposal is too complex of an issue for the Administration to unilaterally develop or implement policy, and the Committee encourages the Administration to take this into account while formulating its fiscal year 2014 budget request.

“The Committee notes that Nye County, the unit of local government within which Yucca Mountain is located, has formally notified the Secretary of Energy that it consents to hosting a high-level waste repository. The Administration does not have authorization to begin a ‘consensus-based’ approach to selecting the location for the next waste repository, but Nye County's official declaration once again clarifies that the Administration's repeated statements that Yucca Mountain is not a ‘workable option’ ignores both the support of the host community and the expressed intent of Congress.”

Nuclear Regulatory Commission: (page 171)

“The Committee notes that the NRC continues its administrative shutdown of the Yucca Mountain license application, as well as its willful misrepresentation of congressional intent. The recommendation continues prior-year language prohibiting the Chairman of the NRC from terminating any program, project, or activity without the approval of a majority of Commissioners. In addition, the recommendation requires the NRC to notify and report to the Committees on the use of emergency functions.’

“The recommendation directs the use of prior-year funds to complete the Yucca Mountain license application. In addition, the recommendation cuts $3,400,000 from ‘Spent Fuel Storage and Transportation’ activities to update the Waste Confidence Rule from 60 years. The current Waste Confidence Rule is sufficient for decades to come, and the NRC has no justification to expedite an update except to provide cover for the Administration's Yucca Mountain policy.”

Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board: (page 174)

“The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) was established by the 1987 amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to provide independent technical oversight of the Department of Energy's nuclear waste disposal program. The Committee expects the NWTRB to be actively engaged with the Department, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on issues involving nuclear waste disposal. The NWTRB should also provide support to the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission's efforts to archive and preserve all Yucca Mountain-related documents and physical materials of scientific value.

“The Committee recommends an appropriation of $3,400,000 for the NWTRB, the same as fiscal year 2012 and the same as the budget request.”

The report also contains explanatory material regarding bill language in a section entitled
General Provisions: (page 176, 181, 182)

“The bill continues a provision prohibiting funds in this Act from being used to close the Yucca Mountain license application process, or for actions that would remove the possibility that Yucca Mountain might be an option in the future.”

“Language has been included under Nuclear Energy permitting the use of the Nuclear Waste Fund only to support the Yucca Mountain High-Level Waste Geological Repository.”

“Language has been included under Nuclear Waste Disposal providing funds to carry out the purposes of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, to be derived from the Nuclear Waste Fund, only to support the Yucca Mountain license application.”

“Language has been included under Nuclear Waste Disposal providing funds to support any local governments which have formally consented to host the high-level waste repository authorized by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.”

Additional Views of House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dick (D-WA) and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN): (page 204)

“Lastly, we commend Chairman Frelinghuysen for the decision to provide funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal project and for including the provision to prohibit the use of funding to abandon the project. We agree that the Administration's actions to close down the project run counter to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Congress of 1982.”

Senate Report:

Nuclear Energy: (page 76)
 
“The Committee recommends $785,445,000 for Nuclear Energy, including $93,000,000 for safeguards and security at Idaho National Laboratory. In addition, the Committee recommends use of prior year balances in the amount of $17,700,000 for a total budget of $803,145,000. The Committee notes that the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future submitted its final recommendations to the Secretary of Energy in January 2012. The Committee strongly supports these recommendations, and provides funding in this account for the Department to implement many of them in the short-term. Most notably, the Committee provides both statutory authority and funding for the Department to begin the processes to site, construct, and operate a consolidated storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Additionally, the Committee directs the Department to ensure that the public continues to have access to the Blue Ribbon Commission's Web site and all records and documents therein.

“The Department of Energy's failure to begin disposing of waste on January 31, 1998 has created a liability, based on the Standard Contracts signed by the Department and each utility operating a nuclear reactor. This liability is expected to exceed $20,000,000,000 by 2020, and accruing an additional $500,000,000 for each year after 2020 that the Department has not accepted spent nuclear fuel. Although funding for these liabilities does not come from the Energy and Water appropriations bill, but is rather paid from the Judgment Fund in the Department of the Treasury, it is, in the end, the taxpayers that are severely penalized for the Federal Government's inaction. This is an unacceptable outcome, and now that the Blue Ribbon Commission has provided recommendations, the Committee would be irresponsible in failing to act on them in this legislation.”

Nuclear Energy Research and Development: (page 76)

Fuel Cycle Research and Development --  The Committee recommends $193,138,000 for Fuel Cycle Research and Development, including $40,378,000 for the Advanced Fuels program, the same as the budget request. The Committee is encouraged by the Department's expedient implementation of the accident tolerant fuels development program, the goal of which is the development of meltdown-resistant nuclear fuels leading to reactor testing and utilization in 10 years. The Committee urges the Department to establish a long-range, integrated approach to this difficult and very important objective, including the establishment of relevant testing facilities and reliable milestones within its laboratories, and to place special technical emphasis and funding priority on highly innovative activities, such as its ceramic coated particle fuel effort, that could significantly enhance the safety of present and future generations of Light Water Reactors.

“Section 312 in the bill establishes a pilot program under which the Department may site, construct, and operate at least one consolidated storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste subject to future authorization and appropriation. The Committee provides a $2,000,000 increase in program direction from within available funds to implement this authority. The Committee directs the Department to use $17,700,000 in unobligated, prior year funds appropriated from the Nuclear Waste Fund. The Committee directs the Department to solicit proposals for consolidated storage facilities within 120 days of enactment of this act. In evaluating proposals, the Department should give priority to novel concepts, including consolidated storage facilities proposed to be co-located with potential permanent repositories, given that current volumes of spent nuclear fuel now exceed the statutory limits established in section 114(d) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act for the first repository.

“The Committee expects that the Department will consider only proposals it receives for the nuclear waste pilot program, and encourages consideration of proposals developed in a cooperative manner with an applying entity and States, local jurisdictions, or affected Indian tribes. The Department should at every step consider the views of the States, local jurisdictions and affected Indian tribes, and should not expend resources to consider sites that are unlikely to achieve support of the host State, local jurisdictions, and affected Indian tribes. The Committee directs the Department to exercise this authority consistent with the recommendations in the Blue Ribbon Commission's final report to the Secretary of Energy. The Committee notes that the Blue Ribbon Commission found that one or more consolidated storage facilities is required regardless of the ultimate location of a permanent repository. The Department currently lacks authority to conduct these activities.

General Provisions: (page 129)

“Section 312. The Committee has included a provision on a pilot program related to consolidated storage of spent nuclear fuel.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095