Senate OKs Zorn resolution urging permanent solution for nuclear waste

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

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

“The federal government was supposed to start storing spent nuclear fuel in a permanent site years ago, yet today the spent fuel continues to be stored at more than 60 temporary sites around the country, including here in Monroe County,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “The U.S. Department of Energy continues to skirt its obligations to the American people. Their inaction to safely store this nuclear waste in a long-term facility or provide a manner to reuse or reduce it continues to unnecessarily put the safety of our local communities at risk.

“This is especially true for the people of Michigan and everyone in the Great Lakes basin who relies on 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.

“New technology exists that could substantially reduce the amount of spent nuclear fuel that would need to be stored and the length of time it would need to be isolated,” Zorn said. “With this resolution, Michigan would — once again — call on Congress to either open a permanent storage repository or take the billions of dollars collected from customers and use it to help support the reuse or recycling of spent nuclear fuel.”

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 Senate 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 Michigan House of Representatives for consideration.