LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Energy and Technology Committee on Thursday approved Sen. John Proos’ resolutions dealing with the safe storage or reuse of spent nuclear fuel.
“Safe and reliable nuclear energy provides much or our nation’s power and can continue to help us meet our current and future energy demands and create good jobs,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Storage of spent fuel remains a problem due to inaction by the Department of Energy. The good news is that new technology exists that could put this waste back to productive use and help us substantially reduce the amount of spent nuclear fuel needed to be stored.
“Congress should either live up to its responsibility to open a permanent repository, refund the billions of dollars they collected from consumers to build the site, or use the funds to help support nuclear fuel recycling.”
Senate Concurrent Resolution 9 urges the president to support the establishment of facilities in the United States for the reprocessing and recycling of spent nuclear fuel.
The resolution says that the Argonne National Laboratory has developed a high-temperature method of recycling spent nuclear waste into fuel. Pyrochemical processing would ensure almost inexhaustible supplies of low-cost uranium resources for the generation of electricity and minimize the risk that used fuel could be stolen and used to produce weapons.
The federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 called for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to begin collecting spent nuclear waste and develop a long-term plan for storage of the material. In 2002, Congress approved Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the site of a safe nuclear waste repository, but the DOE halted the project in 2010 despite the Nuclear Waste Fund receiving more than $30 billion in revenue from customers throughout the country in order to construct the facility and store the spent fuel.
The committee also approved SCR 6, sponsored by Proos, and SCR 8, sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn. SCR 6 calls on Congress to either use the funds in the Nuclear Waste Fund to build a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste or reimburse customers who paid into the fund. SCR 8 urges the DOE and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to fulfill their obligation to establish a permanent solution for handling high-level nuclear waste.
“The failure of the Department of Energy to open a facility to safely store this nuclear waste or provide a manner to reuse or reduce it puts the safety of our local communities at risk,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This is especially true for people of Michigan and the Great Lakes basin. We need a permanent solution that will end the long-term storage of nuclear waste on the shores of the world’s largest collection of fresh water.”
Proos said, “Michigan customers have paid more than $810 million for the construction of a permanent storage site. Reprocessing and recycling processes can reduce the amount of nuclear waste and the time it must be isolated by almost 1,000 times. Congress should allow this technology to help reduce our nuclear waste storage needs and make our communities safer.”