Nuclear group likes chances for waste management progress next Congress

“I think there’s more overlap between the two parties on energy policy than there was a decade ago, and I definitely think nuclear is part of that overlap,” Flint said.

Flint said the House has consistently expressed eagerness to work on nuclear waste management. He also said President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney appear willing to work on nuclear energy issues.

The Senate hearing made it seem that the pieces were falling in place, Flint said.

“We’ll have to work with the Congress and decide what the path forward is,” Flint said. “There’s always a difference between the House and the Senate on anything, but there is a process for resolving this.”

In that hearing, senators from both parties agreed on most elements of the bill. It would implement recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a group formed by Obama in 2009 to evaluate the nation’s handling of nuclear waste.

Democrats and Republicans did split on the bill’s mechanism for storing spent nuclear fuel — currently parked at nuclear reactors — in the immediate term.

Democrats want a formal application filed for a permanent storage site before moving waste to consolidated interim locations, which was embodied in the bill. Republicans say that process might get entangled in political and legal machinations.

At least in the long-term, Flint does not view that to be a deal breaker.

“For me personally, I do not assume the politics of used fuel in this country are permanent,” Flint said, explaining he thinks an independent program would ultimately be established to administer nuclear waste. “It is inevitable that that will occur. How do we get to that point from where we are today is very interesting.”