Wyden joins three senators in nuclear waste policy group

 “I’m hoping that we will resume kind of where we left off at the end of last Congress, where we were having some kind of regular meetings to discuss the next set of ideas,” Murkowski told reporters Wednesday.

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Murkowski said the group met regularly toward the end of last Congress. That culminated with Bingaman floating a nuclear waste management bill, designed as a table setter for the new session.

The group was not completely on board with Bingaman’s bill. They largely disagreed with his view that an application for a permanent waste storage site must be on file before moving waste to interim facilities.

But Wyden already has indicated he is amenable to using interim storage sites for high-risk waste — such as waste stored near earthquake faults — even without a permanent destination in mind.

Committee Republicans objected to the permanent site requirement because they fear getting the application ensnared in a political battle.

They point to the fight for continuing reviews to use Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository. President Obama campaigned on shutting the Nevada site down during his first presidential run, and pulled the plug on reviews in 2010.

Murkowski said she is not ready to give up on the Yucca Mountain repository, but added the committee should explore other options.

“I don’t want to give up on Yucca because of what has been invested in it, but I also don’t want to waste another decade and get nowhere,” Murkowski said.

She said any nuclear waste management bill should include a “consent-based approach” for establishing a new repository. That process would enable states that want a nuclear waste site to apply to host such a facility.

The recommendation comes from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which Obama convened in 2009 to study how the nation manages its nuclear waste.

The commission’s recommendations served as a template for the Senate group’s talks, and for Bingaman’s bill last Congress.

“I think it is our intent along, with Sen. Wyden as the chairman now replacing Bingaman, that we move forward on some of those proposals that we were discussing,” Murkowski said.

— This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. on Jan. 24 to more accurately reflect Wyden's position on nuclear waste storage.