Sen. Murkowski Introduces Bill for Short-term Nuclear Fuel Storage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced legislation to make good on the federal government’s promise to provide safe and secure storage for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.

The Nuclear Fuel Storage Improvement Act (S. 1320), which is co-sponsored by Mary Landrieu (D-LA), would create two federal interim storage repositories to centralize spent nuclear fuel that is currently being held at individual nuclear power plants around the country.

“This proposal addresses one of the most glaring failures of our national nuclear policy – what to do with the used nuclear fuel currently that is currently being stored at over 100 sites across the country,” Murkowski said. “This legislation makes good on the federal government’s promise to provide a solution to the storage question.”

"As we work to free our country from foreign energy, nuclear power is one of the strongest and cleanest tools in our energy toolbox to advance our energy security goals," Sen. Landrieu said. “To advance nuclear technology, we must get serious about establishing a permanent nuclear waste repository.  Unfortunately, this effort has been delayed. While we continue to work to find a permanent location for spent nuclear fuel, we need to make sure that we have an interim and safe storage option available.”

Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the federal government is required to take ownership of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants starting in 1998. The government has not fulfilled that requirement and as a result has been the target of numerous lawsuits from utilities seeking to recover the costs of storing the spent fuel.

The federal government has already paid out $725 million to settle 11 lawsuits. The government’s liability for ongoing lawsuits is roughly $1.5 billion. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that even if the government starts to accept spent fuel by 2021, the total cost of lawsuits will top $13 billion and could even reach $100 billion now that the administration has withdrawn the application to create a permanent storage facility at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

The legislation seeks to end the lawsuits against the federal government and help the domestic nuclear industry, as well as the communities that host nuclear power plants, partially resolve the long-standing problem of what to do with the used nuclear fuel stored on-site.