One of the most crucial, yet under reported, problems in waste management has been the loss of a national repository for nuclear waste. Back in 2010, the US Congress effectively shut down the construction and operation of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository which was to be the central containment facility for the country’s spent nuclear fuel. The site itself had already been completed by the time Congress pulled funding for the project and was last expected to open beginning in 2017.
Mounting opposition from Nevada residents and environmental groups, as well as the efforts of Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have effectively left the future of nuclear waste disposal up in the air. However, this gaping hole in the nation’s nuclear waste removal process may soon be resolved. Senators Feinstein and Alexander of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water have introduced a new bill title the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013.
The bill would create a separate regulatory agency, dubbed the Nuclear Waste Administration, responsible for managing stockpiles of nuclear waste. The agency would be granted the authority to negotiate with state and local governments for the siting of new disposal facilities, like the moribund Yucca Mountain facility. The bill emphasizes a consent-based process for locating new storage facilities. A process that includes consulting with state and local businesses, as well as residents of any location chosen by the administration for the construction of new facilities.
The members of the committee believe that by opening up the process to industrial experts, residents, and even state legislators, they can bypass the entrenched resistance that ended up dooming the Yucca Mountain project. The Nuclear Waste Administration Act itself was created through a new process that seeks the input of groups outside of Congress, referred to as a “discussion draft”. The vast majority of legislation passed by Congress every year is written up in committees and behind closed doors, which makes the process behind the NWA Act something of a novelty.
Hopefully, the input of those who would be affected by the new Nuclear Waste Administration will be enough to effectively resolve the country’s nuclear waste woes.