This bill — the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 — would reform the nation’s nuclear waste management policy to ensure the federal government’s legal obligations to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste are fulfilled. It includes provisions related to the temporary storage of nuclear waste while a permanent repository is built at Yucca Mountain, benefits to be received by host communities, and revising how the Nuclear Waste Fund operates. Summaries of its various sections can be found below.
Storage & Building a Permanent Repository
The Dept. of Energy (DOE) would be authorized to contract with a non-federal entity (like a nuclear utility) to store spent nuclear fuel on an interim basis or to develop its own away-from-reactor, centralized storage facility — known as monitored retrievable storage. Fuel from decommissioned reactors would prioritized.
The DOE would be directed to prioritize activities relating to an agreement with a non-federal entity (like a nuclear utility), and such facilities would have to hold a National Regulatory Commission (NRC) license and have approval from the state, local government, and affected tribes.
This bill would also include “land withdrawal” (legal descriptions of how federal land can be used) for a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and remove impediments to license approval for the Yucca Mountain site. This would allow the formal licensing process to determine if the repository can be licensed and built. It’d also clarify regulatory and permitting requirements for repository development.
Host Community Benefits
Local stakeholders would be permitted to directly engage with the federal government to mitigate impacts from hosting a repository or interim storage facility.
This section of the bill would update the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to requalify the state of Nevada to enter into an agreement with the DOE to mitigate potential impacts that may result from hosting the repository. It would also require the DOE to prioritize work with Nevada-based academic institutions, reserve future economic value from spent fuel to the state of Nevada, and make funding directly available to Nevada once spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste arrives at the Yucca Mountain site.
Funding & DOE Operations
This section of the bill would ensure that previous defense spending supports the completion of the repository licensing process to facilitate the quickest pathway for communities hosting DOE national securities to remove radioactive material.
The method used by the DOE to fund its nuclear waste management activities through the collection and usage of Nuclear Waste Fund fees. This section of the bill would also make specific portions of previously collected funding available to the DOE without further funding throughout the multi-decade life cycle of the repository program.
The DOE would be required to take ownership of commercial spent nuclear fuel once it is accepted for transport to an interim storage facility or repository. This would reduce ongoing taxpayer exposure to claims against the Judgment Fund because DOE’s current lack of ownership places them in breach of contract.