Bloomberg News

Nuclear-Waste Overhaul by U.S. Will Take Years, Panel Chief Says

February 02, 2012

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. will need more than a year to create an organization that will oversee federal nuclear- waste policies, according to a co-chairman of the panel that studied the issue for President Barack Obama.

“You’re at least talking a year, maybe two years, maybe more,” to set up the entity, Lee Hamilton, a co-chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, said today at a House subcommittee hearing in Washington.

Lawmakers are studying a recommendation by the commission to create a government-chartered corporation to oversee nuclear- waste management, taking over from the Energy Department. The corporation would license, build and operate storage and disposal sites, according to the Jan. 26 report.

Obama two years ago set up the commission to study options after canceling funding for the government’s proposed repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, led opposition to the project.

“We don’t anticipate legislation” in the current session of Congress, which is deadlocked by partisan disagreements, Hamilton said. The Energy Department should take steps “so that we can keep this process moving,” he said.

The Energy Department can negotiate with utilities to revamp the fee structure of the Nuclear Waste Fund to ensure money is used for waste management, according to the report. The department also can begin design studies for a possible temporary storage site, which the commission supports, it said.

Congress should create the corporation and revamp the fund, Representative John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican and chairman of the House subcommittee, said at today’s hearing.

More than 65,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel are stored at about 75 operating and closed U.S. reactor sites, and about 2,000 tons are added a year, according to the commission.

“We don’t want a dead stop here for two or three years while we wait to develop an organization,” Hamilton said.

--Editors: Steve Geimann, Jon Morgan

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Wingfield in Washington at bwingfield3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net


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