Sen. Wyden expects draft nuclear waste bill 'shortly'

“I call the nuclear waste issue one of those issues that feels like the longest running battle since the Trojan War, and I think it’s time to get on with it,” Wyden said.

But Wyden noted what the Senate is fleshing out might not be palatable to the House.

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The Senate version is not likely to identify Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as the nation’s long-term repository for nuclear waste, in part because it would not pass muster with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who opposes the Yucca site.

That would be a sticking point for House Republicans.

Republicans have criticized President Obama’s decision to stop Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews of the Energy Department’s application to use Yucca as a permanent repository.

House Republicans say Yucca must have a place in any nuclear waste bill. They contend doing otherwise would violate a 1982 law that explicitly names Yucca as the nation’s permanent destination for storing nuclear waste.

Wyden said he is well aware of that condition.

“I know how strongly the House feels on this. We’ve heard that message loud and clear,” Wyden said.

Still, the Oregon Democrat thought there might be a way around the Yucca issue.

He noted that a “preponderance of scientific opinion” has said the United States has and will produce enough spent nuclear fuel to need more than one permanent repository.

Wyden was likely referring to the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a panel Obama formed in 2009 to figure out how to handle the nation’s stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel.

The ad hoc Senate committee working on nuclear waste legislation is using that commission’s recommendations as the framework for its bill.

“No matter how you feel about Yucca Mountain, you’re going to need more than one repository. Now maybe that provides an opportunity for some common ground,” Wyden said.

— This story was updated at 6:04 p.m.