PUBLISHED ON CQ.COM

Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz said Thursday his department plans to
meet with a Texas company that wants to build a temporary storage facility
for spent nuclear fuel, although a key lawmaker says the proposal might not
go further without congressional say-so.
In a brief interview after testifying to the House Appropriations Energy-Water
Subcommittee, Moniz noted that Waste Control Specialists this month
signaled it planned to reach out to the Energy Department about plans to
store nuclear waste at its facility in Andrews, Texas.
“We look forward to that because it’s a very interesting idea,” Moniz said.
”So we’re eager.”
Putting spent fuel from power plants in interim storage sites is a central
recommendation of the presidential Blue Ribbon Commission that in 2012
outlined a strategy to move past the impasse over storing nuclear waste at
Yucca Mountain, Nev. Moniz was a member of that panel before becoming
Energy secretary in 2013.
As we reported this month, Waste Control Specialists has said
congressional approval may not be necessary to move ahead with its
proposal.
However, a key House member said Thursday that lawmakers will ultimately
need to sign off. “They can’t proceed with it until Congress authorizes it,”
said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the chairman of the Energy-Water
Appropriations panel.
Simpson said he supports a proposed pilot project that would authorize the
Energy Department to pursue a temporary storage site, but he noted that
opposition from House Energy and Commerce Committee members has kept
the provision from becoming law in recent years.
“My authorizers don’t want to start a pilot program unless they can get
funding to continue Yucca Mountain,” Simpson said. “So it’s either both of
them or neither of them.”
Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton late last year pledged to review
the matter in his committee during the 114th Congress. In exchange, Rep.
Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, withdrew a floor amendment that would have
authorized the pilot project.
Simpson said he hasn’t discussed the issue with Upton, R-Mich., or John
Shimkus, R-Ill., who chairs the Energy subcommittee of jurisdiction, since last
year, but wants to see it taken up by the authorizing panel.
An Energy panel spokeswoman said work toward a nuclear waste solution
continues, but noted in an email that Shimkus has indicated that “any
measure advanced by the committee will include Yucca Mountain.”
She added that Shimkus opposes funding interim storage from the ratepayer-financed
Nuclear Waste Fund, which was intended to pay for Yucca
Mountain.

 

By Geof Koss, CQ Roll Call (FEB 26, 2015)