Landmark Legislation That Would Remove Nuclear Waste From Local Communities Passes House
(Washington, DC) —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) voted in favor of the bipartisan Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (H.R. 3053), a bill he cosponsored, which for the first time authorizes a consolidated interim storage program that will allow stranded nuclear waste stored in local communities to be moved to a remote location before a permanent repository is completed. This bill is the first major nuclear waste management legislation passed by the House in over a decade. Currently, commercial nuclear power plants must store their spent nuclear fuel and greater than Class C waste on-site, including thirteen decommissioned nuclear plants that no longer produce power or bring in revenue. One of these decommissioned sites that are forced to store nuclear waste on-site is the former Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant in Haddam, Connecticut, which sits on the Connecticut River in Courtney’s district. The bill was passed by a vote of vote 340-72.
“It is long past time for the federal government to live up to the commitments to relieve our communities of the burdens associated with storing nuclear waste locally. This bipartisan compromise broke through the gridlock in Washington and may finally provide a way out for these communities,” Courtney said. “We cannot allow small communities and municipalities to continue to bear the burden of securing and storing nuclear waste while they wait on the federal government to establish a permanent nuclear waste facility. For decades, ratepayers footed the bill for the federal government to find a permanent storage solution for spent nuclear fuel, and removing this fuel from our communities is long overdue. I believe that this bill offers the best chance of relieving local communities and ratepayers that have been saddled with this responsibility for far too long.”
The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (H.R. 3053) amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982—legislation that required the Department of Energy to remove spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power facilities in exchange for a fee which was paid by ratepayers while these power plants were in operation. In 1987, Congress identified Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the preferred location for a permanent nuclear waste repository. H.R. 3053 preserves a permanent storage solution as the end-goal for the disposal of nuclear waste, but also authorizes consolidated interim storage until a permanent geological repository is fully licensed and prepared to receive nuclear waste shipments. The bill authorizes the Department of Energy to contract with a non-federal entity to create a centralized storage facility that can receive nuclear waste in the interim.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 required the Department of Energy to sign contracts with commercial electric utilities to remove spent nuclear fuel starting in 1998. The Department of Energy continues to be in breach of these contractual obligations and now, the utilities continue to sue the federal government for damages. To-date, the utilities have received $6.1 billion in payments from the Judgement Fund. Most recently, in 2016 Connecticut Yankee was awarded $32.6 million in damages—funds that will trickle back to Connecticut ratepayers who continue to pay for the $10 million annual costs to operate the Connecticut Yankee’s spent fuel storage program.
Currently, spent nuclear fuel and Greater than Class C waste are stored in dry cask storage at two locations in Connecticut: the former Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Haddam, which was permanently shut down in 1996; and the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford, which is currently operated by Dominion Energy and generates nearly half of Connecticut’s electricity.