Senators float bill to create interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel

The lawmakers say the legislation is intended to end a series of lawsuits filed by utilities because the federal government has yet to establish a permanent waste repository. The lawsuits could cost the federal government billions of dollars.

House Republicans are conducting an investigation into the Obama administration’s decision to abandon plans to build a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Republicans argue the project was scuttled for political reasons.

The GOP has pounced on an Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector general report that says Gregory Jaczko, the commission’s chairman, withheld key information from his fellow commissioners when he decided to close out the ongoing Yucca review.

The storage of spent nuclear fuel has come under increased scrutiny in the aftermath of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has raised questions about the way spent fuel is stored in light of issues at the spent fuel pools at the Japanese plant. In the United States, spent fuel rods are placed in pools for several years and then moved into dry cask storage.

“It is clear that we lack a comprehensive national policy to address the nuclear fuel cycle,” Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water subcommittee, said earlier this year.

A recent NRC inspector general report said the commission does not have an adequate system in place for the inspection of nuclear spent fuel storage sites.