WASHINGTON, DC – During the House Appropriations Committee’s Energy & Water Development Subcommittee Member Day, several Energy and Commerce Members highlighted the need to find a permanent solution to America’s nuclear waste storage problem and resume the licensing process for Yucca Mountain. Specifically, the Members asked for the president’s budget request of $116 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) and $38.5 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) be fulfilled.
Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Republican Leader John Shimkus (R-IL) urged for funding so we can once and for all settle the debate on the science of establishing a geologic repository to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. As reported by The Nevada Independent, Shimkus recently sent a letter calling for Nevada to make case against Yucca Mountain before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At the Member Day, Shimkus said:
“The money that we’re asking for does not turn one shovel of dirt. That’s unfortunate because we need to move forward. What it does is it gives the state of Nevada, which is something if you’ve read the recent press stories that they want – they want a chance to argue the science. So this money request is a simple request: let’s get a final decision on the science and then decide how we want to move forward. If through this process this licensing board says it’s not safe per the law we’re done. But to keep the ratepayers and the states and the communities held hostage because we’re unwilling to have the final debate on the science – I just don’t think is good public policy.”
Subcommittee on Energy Republican Leader Fred Upton (R-MI) discussed how we need to complete the licensing process, so we can keep our communities safe:
“This has been a bipartisan issue for decades. We need to complete the licensing because it is absolutely critical to opening the path to meeting the nation’s legal and moral obligations to dispose of the used nuclear fuel and other high-level waste currently stranded at 121 sites in 39 states around the country. … We’ve got a President that will sign this – it’s in his budget. We need to take action, so we can restart this process.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) stressed how American ratepayers and taxpayers are on the hook for billions because the federal government has failed its contractual obligation to establish a permanent nuclear waste repository:
“Because the Department of Energy and the federal government have defaulted on their contractual obligations, ratepayers across the United States – notice I said ratepayers across the United States – have paid around $40 billion in fees for the construction and operation of a permanent nuclear waste repository. The federal law required the Department of Energy to begin disposing of nuclear waste by 1998. Clearly, the federal government has aggressively failed to meet this contractual deadline by over 20 years – unnecessarily costing Americans billions of dollars. In addition to what ratepayers have paid, taxpayers have paid nearly $7 billion in legal damages. In fiscal year 2017 alone taxpayers nearly paid $732 million, which breaks down to about $2 million a day in damages. And for what? Given our rising $22 trillion debt it’s important to remain cognizant of what else this money could be funding.”
Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) urged support for funding so we can give ratepayers certainty:
“These funds would ensure that the state of Nevada and other stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in the licensing process and have their views heard. Our decades-long failure to move this project along costs the American taxpayer nearly $2 million a day. Reports show we’ve already spent $8 billion in taxpayer money because of needless delays and our inability to meet our legal obligations to the nation’s electric utilities. Failure to provide funding that secures spent nuclear fuel will only cause further financial hardship on the American taxpayer and uncertainty for ratepayers when many parts of the country rely on nuclear energy – one of our most reliable sources of electric generation.”
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) noted how nuclear power plays a large role in his home state of Georgia:
“We’re the only state and the only place where we have two major nuclear reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle. This is extremely important and because of that we need to find a safe, long-term solution for that storage of nuclear waste. That’s why I submitted a request that will help us to move one step further to the construction and use of Yucca Mountain.”
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) brought up how nuclear power played a crucial role when his home state of Texas was hit by Hurricane Harvey, furthering the need to fund a permanent nuclear waste repository for this safe, reliable, and clean energy source:
“The biggest power source through Hurricane Harvey was the south Texas nuclear project at Bay City, Texas. She was hit directly by the bad side of Harvey – the northeast quadrant. Not a blip. Not a flicker throughout that terrible storm. That nuclear plant kept our community online and saved countless lives. Nuclear power is critical to our power grid and an important part of our energy future. … Years ago, ratepayers agreed to pay for nuclear power if the federal government created a place to put the spent nuclear fuel to store it. That place is Yucca Mountain Nevada. We’ve had a law for all of our hazardous waste, radioactive waste to be stored at Yucca Mountain – it’s been the law of the nation for over 20 years. … I ask this subcommittee to fully fund Yucca Mountain in its Appropriations’ bill. We have failed to deliver our promises for too long.”
Last Congress, the E&C-led Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (NWPAA) passed the House by a vote of 340-72, to learn more about the NWPAA and the issues surrounding Yucca Mountain, click here.