On January 11, 2013, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) released the “Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste” (“Strategy”). The Strategy builds on the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (“BRC”) and includes plans for a pilot interim storage facility, a full-scale interim storage facility, and a geologic repository (see February 5, 2010 edition of the WER).

The Strategy details the Obama Administration’s plan to implement a 10 year program to address nuclear and high-level radioactive waste storage and disposal, conditioned upon authorization from Congress. Specifically, the plan would:

  1. site, design, license, construct and begin to operate a pilot interim storage facility by 2021, focusing first on nuclear fuel from shut-down reactors;
  2. move towards siting and licensing a larger interim storage facility by 2025; and
  3. make “demonstrable progress” on siting of repository sites to encourage availability of a geologic repository by 2048.

In the Strategy, DOE notes certain “critical” elements necessary for implementation, and indicates that the following should be included in new legislation:

  1. requirements for a consent-based siting process;
  2. establishment of a new organization – the waste management and disposal organization (“MDO”) – to execute the waste management mission; and
  3. implementation of a process for long-term, stable funding (the Strategy suggests ongoing discretionary appropriations, access to annual fee collections in legislation, and eventual access to balance or “corpus” of Nuclear Waste Fund (“NWF”)).

DOE notes that the MDO is needed to provide “stability, focus and credibility” and would be in charge of managing and disposing of commercial used nuclear fuel and working with the related utilities. With regard to ensuring stable funding, DOE states that a “key challenge” is to make sure that past and future fees received under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982’s (“NWPA”) self-financing mechanism are still made available to meet the nuclear material management system. Under the NWPA, the government assesses utilities fees based on electricity sold at nuclear power plants to fund the NWF, in exchange for the government agreeing to accept and permanently dispose of the used nuclear fuel.

The Strategy concludes that it translates the BRC’s report into a set of “broad steps” to ultimately benefit the entire nation, but notes that in order to engage in the suggested activities and fully implement the Obama Administration’s plan, new legislation will be necessary.

A copy of the Strategy is available here.