WASHINGTON—Legislation was introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives to overhaul the funding mechanism for the federal government’s nuclear waste management program and avoid funding shortfalls that could compromise the licensing and construction of the planned Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository. The legislation’s chief sponsors are Illinois Reps. John Shimkus (R) and Bobby Rush (D). The measure allows monies collected in the Nuclear Waste Fund—a trust fund financed by customers using nuclear-generated electricity—to offset program spending and not be subject to general budget caps as long as annual revenues to the fund exceed appropriations from the fund in a given year. Yucca Mountain will be a state-of-the-art, underground disposal facility for used fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs. The following is a statement from John Kane, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president of governmental affairs.
“The nuclear energy industry applauds Congressmen Shimkus and Rush for their bipartisan cooperation and leadership to address an issue that is so clearly in the national interest.
“The government’s nuclear waste management program is an environmental priority and is at a point where it is imperative that Congress provide the funding necessary for the Department of Energy to meet its timetable for submitting the Yucca Mountain license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The best way to do that is to modify the current budget rules governing the Nuclear Waste Fund—which has a balance of $14 billion—and assure that budget fees collected are credited against budget caps so they do not artificially compromise this program.
“The Nuclear Waste Fund has unique characteristics that justify modifying the budget rules governing its use. It is self-financed by electricity customers at about $750 million a year, and the receipts are specifically intended for the used nuclear fuel disposal program. While the program must remain subject to congressional oversight, Yucca Mountain funding should not compete with unrelated programs that do not have a dedicated funding source.
“Full funding for the Yucca Mountain project is critical to DOE meeting the December 2004 target for submitting the license application. Failure to meet the target would have a cascading effect on subsequent program goals and the initial operations of the repository, which is scheduled to begin operating in 2010.
“The industry encourages Congress to pursue legislative options for restoring the Nuclear Waste Fund principles that re-establish the direct link between income and expenditures. Developing a new funding process for the Yucca Mountain project will permit the government to begin fulfilling its legal obligation to move used nuclear fuel from 40 states to a single, underground federal repository.”
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.