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July 30, 2015

Nuclear Waste Bill Not Dead, Just Sleeping


Feinstein. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A Senate measure to set up a new agency to oversee nuclear waste is lying dormant while election year priorities take the spotlight.

Despite prodding from the bill’s supporters, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., has yet to move the bill.

As CQ’s Geof Koss reports, for at least the third time this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Thursday publicly urged Landrieu to take up the bill, which Feinstein cosponsored and which the committee seemed about to move forward when Landrieu took the gavel in February.

Without taking possession of and storing spent nuclear fuel, the federal government stands to “lose $20 billion a year because we don’t have it and we become responsible for it,” Feinstein said while introducing Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall during her nomination hearing to be deputy energy secretary. “And we’ve got nuclear waste piling up all over this country.”

Feinstein and cosponsor Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., twice pressed Landrieu on the bill at appropriations hearings this year, though they both recently expressed understanding on the chairwoman’s priorities, as she is locked in a tight reelection campaign against Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

“She’s got a huge backlog of stuff,” Feinstein told me last month. “My hope would be that she’d put this in the front of the line,” she said. “It should happen and hopefully it will.”

Alexander expressed a similar understanding of the bill’s status.

“It’s not stalled really,” he told me in recent weeks. “Chairman Landrieu has a number of priorities she’s working on,” Alexander added, noting that she’s “been receptive so far.”

Koss has more on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s draft update to the waste confidence rule, released Thursday (subscription).

Comments (17)

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  1. stevek9

    July 25, 2014
    1:57 p.m.

    We should deal with it, but it could ‘pile up’ for another 50 years and would not be a big deal (it’s a small pile).

  2. Tom Clements

    July 28, 2014
    12:56 p.m.

    One thing is clear, we in South Carolina do not want “consolidated interim storage” of commercial spent fuel at the DOE’s Savannah River Site as it may never leave the site or be used as to leverage for reprocessing (which would create a real mess). The federal advisory panel on clean-up, the SRS Citizens Advisory Board, renewed its position on July 22 against bringing commercial spent fuel to SRS. Focus must remain on clean up of existing waste at SRS. See SRS CAB position passed in July 2013: & renewed with slight edits. Tom Clements, Director, Savannah River Site Watch (

  3. Leonard Suschena

    July 28, 2014
    3:35 p.m.

    Oh boy another Federal agency, just what we need. It’s the DOE’s responsibility to get it done (oh right Senate Dems cut funding and illegally shutdown Yucca, AGAIN through their lacky Jzacko) and the NRC is responsible to regulate already, so why do we need to create a whole new agency. We also have to re-write 10CFR to establish the new agency and remove the NRC from the process. (Tom, you didn’t mention that this is a waste of money that we don’t have like you usually do.)

  4. Guest

    July 28, 2014
    3:38 p.m.

    Nothing is small when it comes to spent fuel. It has been piling up for 50 years already and the Congress and President kicked the can down the road AGAIN, by illegally closing Yucca. The problem was solved decades ago, but politics are in the way. If it was done by private companies, we would be having this dicussion 50 years later.

  5. Leonard Suschena

    July 28, 2014
    3:39 p.m.

    Nothing is small when it comes to spent fuel. It has been piling up for 50 years already and the Congress and President kicked the can down the road AGAIN, by illegally closing Yucca. The problem was solved decades ago, but politics are in the way. If it was done by private companies, we wouldn’t be having this dicussion 50 years later.

  6. axure

    July 29, 2014
    11:08 p.m.

    I thought when I read the headline that this story was about the existing Nuclear Waste Policy Act that President Obama refuses to follow, not about his minion’s proposal to waste $15-30 billion and 20 years searching for temporary above ground storage that will STILL need Yucca Mountain eventually long after Reid is dead and Obama is out of office. Why the Democratic Senators refuse to acknowledge and follow the 30 year old law is a case history on why politicians can’t be trusted further than the next election.

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