Draft Spent Fuel Bill in Circulation

Draft Spent Fuel Bill in Circulation

According to E&E News, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has drafted legislation to establish a new independent agency responsible for siting, licensing and operating nuclear waste sites. The draft bill would also authorize siting, construction and operation of one or more repositories for permanent disposal of nuclear waste. The Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2022 appears to closely parallel former committee chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) 2019 bill (S. 1234). Under the bill, a new Nuclear Waste Administration (NWA) would assume responsibility for nuclear waste management authority currently held by the Secretary of Energy. The agency would be led by a presidentially appointed administrator, to be confirmed by the Senate for six-year terms.  

Consent-based siting is a key element of the bill; binding consent agreements between the NWA, state governors, affected tribes and local government would be required. The bill would also authorize NWA to operate one or more federally and/or privately owned interim storage facilities. “These are constructive changes that we have advocated for, and they were part of Spent Fuel Solutions response to the Department of Energy’s Request for Information,” said San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who serves as an SFS co-chair. “While a bill has not yet been formally introduced, the steps being taken at the federal level are very positive and continue to trend in the right direction.”

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Department of Energy Announces New Leader in the Spent Fuel Space

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently confirmed that Sam Brinton will officially serve as the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition. Dr. Kim Petry, who visited Southern California earlier this year to discuss DOE’s efforts to launch a consent-based siting process for interim storage, previously filled the Deputy Assistant Secretary position in an interim capacity. Dr. Petry now serves as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. Continuing to make progress within this area will be one of Brinton’s key priorities as they step into their new role. Brinton will also lead the Waste Disposition task force and oversee the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Science and Technology and the Office of Integrated Waste Management. “Our coalition is pleased that the DOE is increasing its staff and congratulates Sam Brinton on this new role,” said Orange County Supervisor and Spent Fuel Solutions (SFS) co-chair Lisa Bartlett. “We share Sam's commitment to federal spent fuel solutions and look forward to working with Sam on this critical issue.”

Federal Government Poised to Continue Appropriations for Spent Fuel Storage

Last year, the House and Senate passed appropriations bills with nearly $28 million in funding for 2022 activities related to spent fuel storage, including consent-based siting. We have since seen considerable progress, with DOE accepting input on consent-based siting for interim storage following the release of a Request for Information (RFI). ASFSN is excited to see this positive trend continue. On June 28, the House Appropriations Committee approved $53 million in Fiscal Year 2023 for the DOE to promote federal consolidated interim storage. While appropriations have not yet been finalized, we have reason for optimism with this encouraging step.  

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DOE Releases Summary of RFI Comments and Funding Opportunity

After receiving 225 responses to its RFI on consent-based siting for federal interim storage, including one from ASFSN, the DOE recently released a summary of feedback. This summary of key findings from the RFI comments marks yet another milestone in the department’s efforts to restart the federal spent fuel management program. DOE officials also announced a competitive funding opportunity for potentially interested communities. “We appreciate the Department of Energy’s (DOE) efforts to incorporate social science into the process to find solutions for our nation’s spent nuclear fuel,” ASFSN stated in our response to the RFI. “We also support any future efforts the DOE may undertake to implement a robust consent-based siting process.” A consent-based approach has proven extremely successful in other countries, including Finland, Sweden and Canada. Read the summary of comments