Senate committee approves Zorn resolution urging permanent solution for nuclear waste

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Energy and Technology Committee on Thursday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s resolution calling for federal action on a solution for safe storage or reuse of spent nuclear fuel.

“Although nuclear power can be a reliable source of electricity production for decades to come, the spent nuclear fuel used to generate power continues to pile up at more than 60 temporary sites around the country, including here in Monroe County,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “The failure of the federal government 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.

“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.”

Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 urges the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to fulfill their obligation to establish a permanent solution for handling high-level nuclear waste. SCR 8 says that currently, more than 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel are stored in pools or casks at temporary sites around the country, including locations in Michigan.

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 electric customers throughout the country in order to construct the facility and store the spent fuel.

“It is unsettling that the nuclear power industry and its customers have paid billions of dollars to construct a permanent storage repository, and yet spent nuclear fuel continues to be stored at temporary sites,” Zorn said. “Thankfully, new technology exists that could greatly reduce the amount of waste needed to be stored and reduce the time that the waste must be isolated.

“Congress needs to either open a permanent storage site or use the money they collected from ratepayers to build it to help support nuclear fuel recycling.”

SCR 8 notes that the DOE’s National Laboratories have pioneered a method of recycling spent nuclear waste into fuel, known as pyrochemical processing, which could extend the productive life of uranium and cut down on nuclear waste.

The committee also approved SCR 6 and SCR 9, both co-sponsored by Zorn. SCR 6 calls on Congress to appropriate funds from the Nuclear Waste Fund to build a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste or reimburse electric customers who paid into the fund. SCR 9 urges the president and Congress to explore and support policies that will lead to the establishment of facilities in the U.S. for the reprocessing and recycling of spent nuclear fuel.

All three resolutions now head to the full Senate for consideration.