In a harsh critique of the nation’s current policy, or lack of policy, regarding spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste, a presidential Blue Ribbon panel said new storage options for nuclear fuel—in addition to Yucca Mountain—must be investigated, and that a new federal agency to deal with nuclear waste should be created. The committee also urged use of interim storage sites while a long-term repository or repositories are developed.
“Put simply, this nation’s failure to come to grips with the nuclear waste issue has already proved damaging and costly and it will be more damaging and more costly the longer it continues,” said the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future in a draft report released Friday.
The commission was appointed by President Barack Obama after he announced that Yucca Mountain would not be pursued as a nuclear storage site. But the 15-member commission recognized that the issue of Yucca Mountain as a repository has still not been resolved, and it did not dismiss Yucca Mountain as an option.
“We simply note that regardless what happens with Yucca Mountain, the U.S. inventory of spent nuclear fuel will soon exceed the amount that can be legally emplaced at this site until a second repository is in operation. So under current law, the United States will need to find a new disposal site even if Yucca Mountain goes forward,” according to the report.
Republican members of Congress on Friday said that the report would not have even been necessary if the Obama administration had not halted on Yucca Mountain.
“The Blue Ribbon Commission has offered various proposals to fix a problem we don’t have,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), vice chairman of the House committee on Space, Science and Technology. “The Draft Report states that the ‘American nuclear waste management program is at an impasse.’ We would not have this impasse but for the President’s politically-motivated decision to close Yucca Mountain.”
Republican members of the House have been investigating whether the decision on Yucca Mountain was appropriate under Nuclear Regulatory Commission procedures.
The administration did not comment on the substance of the Blue Ribbon committee report: “Secretary Chu appreciates the hard work done by the members of the Blue Ribbon Commission, and thanks them for a very thoughtful report. The interim report issued today is a strong step toward finding a workable solution to the challenges of the back end of the fuel cycle,” according to a statement from Damien LaVera, press secretary for the Dept. of Energy.