House Leaders: Now Is the Time To Act on Used Nuclear Fuel

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Two leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, one Democrat and one Republican, today told nuclear energy industry leaders that Congress and the industry are confronting a pivotal moment to address long- neglected used nuclear fuel policy.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, said bipartisan support for a federal repository for used uranium fuel exists in the House and the Senate. Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina identified the management of used nuclear fuel as the top challenge confronting industry.

The lawmakers addressed more than 800 industry leaders attending the Nuclear Energy Institute's annual conference.

Their remarks came just a week after the House approved appropriations legislation for fiscal 2016 that includes $150 million for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue licensing activity for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.

Shimkus stressed the significance of the NRC's issuance of a key safety evaluation of Yucca Mountain.

"The safety evaluation on the Yucca repository shows it will be safe for one million years. How dare we take that off the table," Shimkus said.

Interest in used nuclear fuel policy has intensified in Congress in recent months for reasons that include the new Republican control of both chambers, the court-ordered suspension of Nuclear Waste Fund fees, and the announced retirement of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy announced a plan to site and develop two storage sites for high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs and commercial used fuel.

Clyburn touted nuclear energy's clean air attributes and said the technology is a vital component of the nation's infrastructure, but its biggest challenge remains used fuel management.

"The future of this industry depends upon our ability to solve the [nuclear waste] issue," Clyburn said.

Nuclear energy facilities operating in 30 states produce 19 percent of total U.S. electric supplies, and provide 63 percent of the electricity generated by carbon-free sources.

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Source:Nuclear Energy Institute