WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today held a hearing on “Oversight of DOE’s Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste.” Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz testified on the department’s new strategy for nuclear waste storage, which is a product of the findings of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and includes interim storage and siting a new waste repository.
The Department of Energy proposed its nuclear waste strategy after the administration moved to terminate the Yucca Mountain project, the repository mandated by Congress under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Decades of research and $15 billion in taxpayer and ratepayer funds have already been spent on Yucca Mountain, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. A bipartisan majority in the House still supports efforts to build Yucca Mountain, and members today expressed frustration at the department’s apparent dismissal of the project and the desire to “start over.”
“Three weeks ago, 335 House members – including more than half our Democrats – voted to preserve funding for the NRC’s Yucca Mountain license review in the energy and water appropriations bill. This vote showed a remarkable bipartisan agreement that the NRC should continue its work as the independent safety regulator and issue a decision on whether or not Yucca Mountain would be a safe repository. After over 30 years and $15 billion, the American people deserve to know the NRC’s independent, objective conclusion,” said Chairman Shimkus. “In light of all this work, DOE’s new waste strategy very much represents the administration’s effort to start from scratch as if the Nuclear Waste Policy Act doesn’t exist or at least as if most of it doesn’t exist.”
Moniz described the department’s plan as a “consent-based approached,” but Chairman Shimkus pressed Moniz on the difficulties in reaching consensus despite local support, as the political opposition to Yucca Mountain demonstrates. Moniz admitted it is a “tortuous approach.” Shimkus added, “I think we ought to be careful. The illusion that this consent-based approach is going to be panacea – I’m not sure it is supported by the facts.”
Watch their exchange here.
Both the secretary and members of the subcommittee expressed that storage of the nation’s nuclear waste remains one of the country’s most pressing challenges and that we must move forward with a solution.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) concluded, “I remain committed to ensuring that consumers get the repository that they have paid for and that the costs to the taxpayers are minimized. Right now, Yucca Mountain remains the clear answer to both of those problems. And it’s the law.”