tv Senate Energy Hearing on Nuclear Waste Storage CSPAN August 1, 2019 1:50pm-3:51pm EDT
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>> next, a hearing examines options for temporary and permanent nuclear waste storage. lawmakers considered legislation and the future of the yucca mountain site in nevada. held by the senate energy and natural resources committee, this is about two hours. >> good morning, everyone. the committee will come to order. we're meeting to examine an issue that we've been at a stalemate for for quite some time. what we should do with the used nuclear fuel that is accumulating at our nation's nuclear reactors. as a starting point, i think we should recognize that nuclear energy is an important part of our country's electric generation. i believe it is a vital part of our mix. the large reactionors that dot the landscape provide reliable energy across our country. our nation's nuclear energy is critically important but it faces challenges and one that has impacted it since the first
reactors began operation. the nuclear waste disposition. beginning with the passage of the nuclear waste policy act in 1982, congress has attempted several times to address the back end of the fuel cycle in an effort to resolve an earlier stalemate, the federal government was supposed to begin taking title to use fuel and moving it to a repository in yucca valley, nevada. the government's failure to deliver on this promise is costing. at a pairs up to $2 million per day. so this hearing is an opportunity for to us consider our next steps on nuclear waste. do we continue to delay in the face of stalemate over yucca? or do we try to find another path forward for used fuel storage? especially for communities that are maintaining sites with only used fuel casts on hand with the commission. in 2010, then secretary of energy convened the blue ribbon commission to conduct a comprehensive review of policies
for managing the back end of the fuel. the commission's report included a number of recommendations, and led to the introduction of the nuclear waste administration act. over the years, this legislation has been led by a number of members including senators widen, senator alexander, both on this committee. i've been a sponsor of the legislation all along with senators alexander and senator feinstein. my partners on the energy and water appropriations sub committee for multiple congresses now. we've been at this for a while and i think it is probably fair to say we would like to put something behind us at some point in time sooner rather than later. our legislation aims to move the process forward so we can finally move used fuel to a permanent repository. our bill creates a nuke waste administration to oversee consent based sighting for interim storage and an additional repository that could be located in states and communities that want it.
our bill also prioritizes the removal of orphaned used fuel at decommissioned sites for temporary storage and consolidated sites. our bill is s-1234. i wish it was as easy as 1234. we know it requires some updates and that there are a number of ideas to improve specific sections, so i welcome those. i look forward to the testimony from our distinguished panel this morning. but i would also welcome thoughts and comments from others. ultimately, i hope we can all agree that it is long, long past time to figure this out and the sooner we find a path forward, the better. it's been six years now since i and others co-sponsored this legislation. we're in the same place. we're in the same place when it comes to the back end of the fuel cycle as when we introduced that legislation six years ago. in that time we have seen tremendous progress in the area
of nuclear with our advanced nuclear reactors. the united states has the ability to lead the world on some of these technologies. but without a solution on nuclear waste, i believe that we are less likely to realize our full potential there. so we're here today to start, or perhaps we should say restart the conversation. i know that chairman barasso has a bill in his epw committee. he is keen to move forward on it. i'm glad to see we have some renewed interest across congress to address the challenge. it is a good thing we have multiple options on the table. i think this is a positive development and i sincerely hope we can move forward after decades of inaction. with that, i turn to my ranking member and friend. >> thank you. i want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today who will provide us with ideas of how to move forward and break the nuclear repository impasse.
especially in adverse weather and the fact that the nation's largest zero emission power source, it means it is a powerful tool in our fight to mitigate climate change and move toward a zero emissions. we will continue to rely on nuclear. thus we must work on a solution to dispose of nuclear waste. i believe this bill provides a solid foundation. it originated with a blue ribbon commission. but i think there's agreement among us that changes must be made to the current text before moving forward. providing an equitable policy for site selection is something that i support as the inequity is a large part of the current impasse. since the national academy of sciences 1957 report, recommending deep, it is clear what we need to do. the prudent and responsible thing to do is to bury this waste deep in the earth to protect the environment and public for generations to come.
unfortunately, the path to achieve this is not entirely clear. i look forward to hearing from our panel today and from my colleagues. many of whom represent constituencies that deal with nuclear waste on a day-to-day basis. in particular i want to thank chairman murkowski for the ongoing leadership on this issue. if we have learned anything in the past 30 years, it is that social and political concerns need to be taken into account. that is not to say that technical considerations are not important but i trust the highly skilled individuals at the national labs and their partners to solve issues that we will face in constructing storied solutions at whatever site or sites that are selected. what congress should focus on are the mechanisms. others have success by creating an organization that is separate from an agency or governing body but still regulated by the government to work with communities to build a repository in their respective
back yards. in 1987, congress decided to not go with the original nuclear waste policy act language that directed the department of energy to characterize several sites and then make a recommendation. instead, due to the price tag associated with the characterization of several sites, congress instead legislated this site choice. this action politicized the site selection process while simultaneously discrediting the federal government. it is my hope that following the mark-up of this bill, it will be equitable in how it considers all sites. so when a site or sites are selected, we know it was a fair process and can move forward accordingly. let us not forget there's urgency. spent fuel polls with the need to mitigate carbon emission ensures that reactors will continue to operate in this country for decades to come. on top of that, failing to act means the federal government is racking up more liability to be paid to the utilities to store
this waste in their own private storage facilities ajason ento the reactors. so the taxpayer is on the hook here to the tune of about $2 million a day with an estimated overall liability of $34.1 billion. like it or not, this means we already have a de facto interim storage program in this country that is inefficient and lacks cost effectiveness. while we don't have any nuclear waste in west virginia, nor do we have nuclear reactors, i'm invested working with my come he goes on this issue because preserving nuclear power is key to addressing the climate crisis. the chairman and i had an opportunity to spend some time with bill gates and he went through boom, boom, boom, country by country by country that has nuclear power, all going to zero in a time and era when we want to have zero emissions. something has to be done and we are at urgent time on this.
so once again i would like to thank chairman murkowski for holding this hearing. much needed not just for the united states of america but the world. thank you. >> thank you. let's turn now to our panel. we have a very distinguished panel. we are joined this morning by maria, the president and ceo of nuclear energy institute. you've been before the committee many times. we welcome you back. mr. wayne norton is the chair for the decommissioning plant coalition steering committee. also president and ceo of the yankee atomic electric company. we appreciate you being here this morning. steven nesbit is the chair of the american nuclear society, nuclear waste policy task force. we thank you for your leadership with that important task force. jeffrey is the senior attorney at nuclear climate and clean energy program for the natural resource defense council. we welcome you to the committee. and dr. john wagner is with us
with one of our national labs. he is the associate laboratory director for nuclear sings and technology doctorate at the idaho national lab. we appreciate your leadership in these spaces as well. we will begin with you, if you can provide your comments to the committee. we would ask that you would try to keep your comments to about five minutes. your full statements will be included as part of the record. when the full panel has concluded, we'll have an opportunity for questions. >> thank you very much. i'm president and ceo of the nuclear energy institute, chairman murkowski and ranking member manchin. i greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony on the act of 2019. i sincerely appreciates the deliberate effort to develop an effective federal used fuel management program. since this bill was first introduced in 2013, several things have changed. because of a court order, the department of energy has reduced
the nuclear waste fee fund to zero. the nuclear regulatory commission technical staff has also completed reviews of the yucca mountain licensing application concluding that yucca mountain complies with all regulation. finally, private initiatives are now underway to develop consolidated storage facilities in two states. nuclear energy is the largest and most efficient source of carbon free electricity in the united states. currently 97 commercial nuclear power plants in 29 states provide nearly 20% of america's electricity and more than half of the emissions-free electricity. these react recovers carbon free work horses. essential to addressing climate change and any realistic manner. that said, the advanced reactors of tomorrow and the u.s. operating fleet at large are continually subjected to reputational damage because congress for two decades now has played politics with the issue
of used fuel. it is vitally important that the u.s. remain a global leader in the commercial nuclear arena and yet, we are the only major nuclear nation without a used fuel management program. the u.s. nuclear industry has upheld its end of the bargain at sites in 35 states around the country. commercial used fuel is safely stored and managed, awaiting pick-up by the federal government which was scheduled for 1998. in addition, the nuclear waste fund which was set up to finance the development of a national repository currently has over $41 billion in its coffers which has been contributed by electricity consumers and nuclear generation companies. each year, over $1.5 billion more in interest accumulates in the fund and finally, each day, we don't have a solution, it does cost taxpayer $2.2 million in damages. the single largest liability paid out of the judgment fund
year after year. it is really time to solve this and i'm excited to talk about how this can be achieved. we need a durable used fuel program. we must allow the science, not the politics to guide us forward. let me be clear. congressional action is necessary. and three important points must be addressed. first, we need to answer on the yucca mountain license application. submitted the application to the nrc more than a decade ago and congress directed it in 2012. this deadline like too many was missed because doe without basis shut down the young thank mountain project for the sake of the communities holding stranded used fuel, wishing to redevelop their sites, we must move forward and allow nevada's concerns with yucca mountain to be heard by nrc's independent administrative judges. this will allow a licensing decision to be determined based
on its scientific merits, rather than politics. second, as the licensing process of yucca mountain moves forward, interim storage can play an important role in helping move spent fuel away from reactor sites, moving unarmed storage in parallel with the project helps to alleviate state and local concerns that interim storage will become a de facto disposal facility. this point was highlighted reasonly in a letter by new mexico governor grisham. that said, i am pleased it's been addressed in the administration act. i strongly believe it can be successful if moved in peril we will the yucca mountain licensing and finally, the nuclear industry around the country have paid their fair share to address the back end of the fuel cycle. as 1234 was originally drafted prior to the court mandated prohibition on the fee, i want to strongly convey the importance of not prematurely
reimposing the fee especially given the substantial balance and large investment interest which acrews annually. the industry believes the fee should not be reinstated until one, the annual expense for the program's ongoing projects exceed the annual investment on the fund. and two, the projected lifestyle cost demonstrates it must be reinstated to achieve full cost recovery over the life of the program. the fact we are here today considering this legislation is a positive step in the right direction and i sincerely appreciate the committee's motivation to find a durable solution. we look forward to continuing to work each and every one of you to reach bipartisan consensus on the best approach for long term management of the nation's used fuel. thank you. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. mr. norton. welcome. >> good morning. my name is wayne norton. i'm the president and ceo of
yankee atomic electric company with responsibility for connecticut yankee and yankee nuclear facilities. the three nuclear plants at my sites are fully decommissioned but for the stog facilities for the spent fuel produced during our operating life. each company is undergoing litigation with the department of energy for monetary damages resulting from its partial breach of contract. the date the courts have awarded my company's damages are approximately $575 million. claims that now encompass virtually all costs for the management of our companies and the fuel storage facilities. in addition, i serve as the chair of the decommissioning plant coalition steering committee. as such, i want to express our appreciation for this invitation to appear before you today on behalf of the coalition and i would ask that my full statement be read into the record.
we are here today in part because of the failure of the federal government with its commitment across states and localities. this delay and performance has cede a situation whereby communities across the nation are becoming the unanticipated home for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel. in new england alone, there are five sites in four states providing indefinite storage of this material even though they have met their obligations and paid upwards of $3 billion into the nuclear waste fund. members of the decommissioning plant coalition have adopted a formal commission statement that emphasizes our support for an integrated nuclear waste program that provides for the timely and safe solution to removing this material from our sites. many of these positions are captured in the recommendations of the blue ribbon commission
and in senate 1234, the nuclear waste administration act. i would love to focus on two issues relative to the blue ribbon commission recommendations and senate 1234. one, consolidate interim storage, and two, funding reform. as suggested by the blue ribbon commission, it calls for a consolidated interim program as part of the licensing effort. given that congress has not funded the current repository program for almost a decade, given the current federal and state tension with the program and given the future funding constraints and mounting taxpayer liabilities, we also believe the most effective and timely path to remedy the government's default lies with such a program. we appreciate the fact that senate 1234 does not prohibit the commencement of fuel movement to cis facility prior
to final action on the repository licensing application. based on the most credible actions, it seems clear that the consolidated interim license will likely be granted first. and could it unduly delay title transfer and fuel acceptance. a key to reducing ongoing taxpayer liability. title four is an effort to clear our concern relative. it is clear movement in a direction that the dpc supports. it does not fully resolve the continued risk of annual appropriations, and perhaps more importantly it leaves unresolved the matter of $40 billion in the fund. in conclusion, along with many of our national organizations which you'll hear from today,
the dpc has repeatedly called for the need for an international nuclear waste program. continued inaction is now costing american taxpayers, as you've heard today, approximately $2.2 million a day and the rate payers tea serve to see the tens of billions of dollars already collected, used for its intended purpose. >> members of the committee, we deeply appreciate your interest in this issue. we are encouraged by your legislative initiative and the attention you've brought through this hearing. thank you fortune to testify today. i'll be glad to answer any questions. >> thank you. mr. nesbitt, thank you. >> thank you, chairman murkowski, ranking member manchin. i appreciate the opportunity to testify on behalf of the american nuclear society. ans represents 10,000 men and women who work every day to
provide clean energy to detect and cure cancer through nuclear medicine, to develop deep space exploration and the many other applications of the atom. we applaud the act of 2019 as a serious effort to break political log jam. to the detriment of the american people, the federal government is approaching a decade of inexcusable inaction in this critical area. it should spur congress is that the administration to action. to be clear, used nuclear fuel is being stored safely today and pose noes immediate danger to the public. however, the lack of progress on a geologic repository has clearly endangered nuclear power's potential to address our long term energy and environmental objectives. in particular, gas reactor developers, men and women earnestly striving to meet global demand for emissions free energy, are most impacted by the question, what about the waste?
i will turn to discuss several key provisions of s-1234 i know what other governmental actions that we believe can begin addressing the very fundamental question. we endorse the initiation of a search for geologic, other than yucca mountain as required. make no mistake. we strongly support this. if yucca mountain doesn't become operational, our waste will have to go somewhere. consolidated interim storage by itself is not the solution and the country determines a better understanding of what options are realistically available. the government needs to update several regulations to reflect scientific advances. in particular, 40 cfr 191 lacks transparency is out of date, and is inconsistent with international guidelines. we endorse consolidated storage
program with priority for fuel at shutdown plants as authorized by 305. however, congress should understand that success is unlikely without a credible repository program. we support the entity for high level waste but has concerns. we suggest continued consideration be given to the public corporation level. high level funding reform is essential. title four takes a step in the right direction by improving access to future contributions to the nuclear waste fund. the committee should also consider incorporating practical provisions to allow an empowered management entity to use the existing balance of the fund. the approach to consent based siting described in 305 and 306 appear reasonable. however, it is an open question if a process with all parties having an absolute veto can succeed in our system of
government. it is provided in my written testimony. in closing, we suggest three principles for future action. first, make real progress by focusing on achievable tasks. create a viable management organization with the necessary resources that can work without undue political interference. empower the organization to complete yucca mountain licensing, investigate a second repository site, and move forward on consolidated interim storage. initiate the development of up to date repositories for sites other than yucca mountain. engage with nevada and other potential host states and communities. second, seek to combine the concepts of consend and benefit. in addition to money from the nuclear waste fund, the federal government has many means of providing infrastructure improvements. federal land, educational opportunities and other means of support to states and communities interested in exploring the partnership on the
management of nuclear material. make those potential benefits abundantly clear. third, scientists and engineers, congress must address the legal issues associated with nuclear waste but we will not succeed if we allow politics to overwhelm good science. act based on real risk. not perceived risk. we must give our best and brightest nuclear experts. i thank you again for the opportunity to testify and stand toward answer your questions. i yield back the remainder of my time. >> thank you. appreciate that. welcome. >> thank you, chairman murkowski and ranking member manchin and other members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to present our views. she said we're in the same place. we trust this can be a new beginning with more than 80,000 metric tons of spent fuel in more than half of our states and reactors moving to
decommissioning, we need to reset the process. s-1234 will not solve the current stalemate and won't lead to current solutions. therefore, we oppose it in its current form. for more than 50 years, congress has offered bills would restart the process or kick open a door in new mexico or utah. in doing that, s-1234 severs any meaningful links and excludes nevada from the consent process it sets up. this won't work. in such efforts have failed in tennessee, in kansas, nevada, utah and everywhere else. another such attempt resets litigation and controversy and the likely result is the continued stalemate we've been in. seven years ago, a bipartisan blue ribbon commission cleanly described what past attempts failed. the commission wisely asserted, we can't keep doing the same thing. congress must create a process that allows any potential host state to demonstrate consent or for that matter, nonconsent.
so rather than spending more of your valuable time on why this won't work, they're written, i put before you a durable meaningful, how we can achieve consend. the solution can be summed up simply. they can set the terms for how much and on what conditions they could host a disposal site. radioactive waste is stranded across the country and will remain so because it is treated as a privileged pollutant. it exempts radioactivity from the clean water act the. it ignores the vital role the states play in addressing other environmental pollutants. senator manchin talked of a mechanism that can drive by. it is at its strongest when each player's vol respected.
such as those in washington or south carolina. it is made exponentially worse by doe self-regulatory stat us which the atomic energy act ordains. the same is true with commercial spent fuel. where any state that is targeted to receive nuclear waste looks to be on the hook for the entire burden of the nation's spent fuel. state consent and public acceptance of potential sites will never be willingly granted unless and until power on how, when, and where waste is disposed of is shared rather than decided simply by federal fiat. there's only one way consent can happen consistent with our federalism. specifically, congress can finally remove the atomic energy act's from our laws. our laws must include full authority over radioactive and nuclear waste facilities so that epa and most importantly, the states can assert direct legraer
to authority. removing these will not imaginally solve this puzzle and create a final repository but i think it can work faster than what we have now. it will open a path forward that respects each state, rather than offering up the latest one for sacrifice. the texas and new mexico events of the last several weeks demonstrate this. why will the plan work and why does this provide a better chance than this 1234? because the state can say no, it can also say yes. and the consent of terms for how it will receive the waste and importantly, not be on the hook for the entire burden. because the state can protect its citizens and environment, limit what comes into the state. so a new regime would allow for the thorough technical review to meet any strict, protective standards unlike the years of fighting. just as important, that fundamental sharing of power can result in public acceptance of solutions. we've seen these bills before.
each has been a mirror of the last. it is time to try something that has a proven track record of addressing other controversial topics. if you want to garner the consent of the blue ribbon commission deemed necessary, you have to give epa and the state's regulatory authority under environmental law. it is time to regulate nuclear waste as every other pollutant with epa and delegated states taking the lead under our environmental statutes. thank you again for having me here today. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you. let's go to views from the idaho national lab. dr. wagner. >> thank you. it is an honor to be here today. i want to thank you for sponsoring the significant legislation and the persistent efforts to make progress on this critically important issue. in general and for nuclear energy in particular.
currently, i oversee inl's nuclear science and technology. including rmp & d for nuclear storage, transportation and disposal. throughout my career i've been intimately involved in the technical issues around spent storage and disposal working in the private sector, as well as for the nuclear regulatory commission. supporting the commission and the department of energy on these issues. including leading a doe program to implement the blue ribbon commission on the future, recommending near term actions which involve laying the groundwork for implementing enteriment storage as well as the associated transportation to support that. as the nation's nuclear energy research development and demonstration laboratory, inl is the leader in an effort to maintain and expand the nuclear reactor fleet. these safe, efficient, and high performing systems produce nearly 20% of the nation's electricity, and more than half
of our carbon free electricity. that is more than solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal combined. we also work on designs. this includes mega watt scale, small modular reactors, and a variety of advance designs that offer potential for improved performance, greater enhanksed safety features, and applications as well as reduced construction, licensing and operating costs. as this committee heard on april 30th during a discussion on the nuclear energy leadership act, or nila, a strong nuclear industry is vital to the united states environment. however, liability and security, economy, and national security. accordingly we must address the major impediments to developing and employing advance nuclear reactors. congress, to its credit, has begun this by employing two pieces of legislation nika and
the nuclear energy and modernization act, nima, and reintroduced a third which i referred to earlier, nila. now it is time to address the waste issue. an impediment to the new advanced reactors as well as continued operation. spent storage is safe as evidenced by more than 50 years of safe and secure operations by the public and private sectors. we do not have a spent nuclear fuel crisis in this country. we do have issues caused by the lack of a sustained co-heernl approach for nuclear waste and not having a identifiable disposition solution. this is resulted in longer than anticipated storage, as you all know. and the national laboratories and industry, in coordination with the commission, proactively
identifying and addressing the associated potential. >> more than that are the socioeconomic and community impacts resulting from onsight storage. the cost of $2.2 million a day. it will increase with the existing plans are shut down. and finally, the negative impact on public acceptance of the nuclear energy which was also referred to earlier, given the lack of progress to address the waste. our commission at the hydro national laboratory related to research, development. we frequently encounter this issue of how in the world can we talk about new nuclear reactors when we have not addressed the
waste issue. because of all this, an interim storage facility can be viewed as an economic investment for the nation that addresses these issues and provides a range of other benefits that have been identified in numerous studies including the brc report that i referred to earlier. finally, i would like to note that i'm encouraged that senate bill 1234 identifies defense related spent fuel under compliance agreement as a priority. at the discretion of the new administrator. they are responsible for managing and storing a range of spent fuel, including spent fuel. i fresh opportunity to testify. i want to thank you for your attention to this important issue for our nation and i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you to each of you for what you're providing the committee. it is clear that the reviews, we
have to deal with the permanent to get to interim. the discussion about interim sites becoming de facto, it is a place that i don't think any of us believe is truly acceptable for the long term. we're not the only nation that has nuclear waste to deal with. it is not like this is a case of first impression here. there is been plenty of reference to other nations and how they handle their nuclear waste. finland and sweden are held out as good examples of areas where or countries where they have deep geologic siting. they have a consent based
approach. you mention that had there has to be consent and benefit tied together. what have they been able to do successfully that we should be looking to. are there geologic formations different than ours and that's what gives them the leg up? is it more with the consent base? i'm trying to figure out with those who have been more successful than we have, what we might learn. and i throw that out to anybody on the panel. mr. nesbit? >> first, it is not the geology. the united states is blessed with a vast number of different gee logic media which are all suitable for development. they have advantages and disadvantages. but in a way, it may be a
problem that we have so many options available to us. in other countries, they're smaller and they really just have to concentrate on one option. the other thing i would like to point out, in those countries that have been successful so far, what you would call a consent based process, they don't have anything would correspond to a consent base like the united states. that's the case of their governmental structure. sweden and finland. it has been a challenge in the united states and typically the hang-up is at the state level. >> i would actually agree with a lot of what mr. nesbit just said. so i hope the committee notes that. that one, we call for in my written testimony a return to the usgs had started some superb work looking at the vast, over 36 states, and dozens and dozens of places around the country that have potential.
but i would urge the xhoe to reflect on the fact that number one, there is no country that has fully sited it yet. sweden and finland are farther down the road but for great measure, precisely because of what he just pointed out. they don't have the system we do. with the community, the state and the federal government. they don't have that interlocutory layer. if you want to solve it consistent with our environmental laws, we've always taken accord of the states. that is the basis of my testimony. >> let me ask you, mr. norton, what does it cost to maintain a decommissioned plant that still has used fuel on its site? on average? just give me a range.
>> thank you for the question. you will see my written testimony. it is approximately $30 million a year combined between the three sites to maintain those facilities and the corporate structure associated with it. >> so what is happening on the site right now? in terms of you've got workers there just ensuring there's a level of safety. what is costing you $30 million? >> well, the interesting part about our company's, senator, madam chairman, we're also managing our corporations and be just the storage of spent fuel at our sites. if you just looked at spent fuel storage, the cost would be closer to $6.5 million per site. as the courts of found in our cases, our corporation's single asset utilities would have gone out of business had the government performed. so be only is our damages including the cost of safely and
securely stored fuel but to manage the corporations and remain in existence until such time as the government performs. >> about $6.5 million per site on average? >> on average. >> so in order to transport spent fuel canisters, do you anticipate that upgrades will be required to these sites as you look forward? >> i would expect across the nation that there would be upgrades required. depending on the facility. it would depend on the significance of it. the department of energy has been doing studies, pre planning studies for deinventorying these sites and looked at the transportation challenges, independent to many of these sites, including the shutdown ones, including my three. and each one of these sites is unique in these challenges. and so, for instance, at maine
yankee, there would be minimal requirements at the site itself. they've looked more broadly at the entire transportation route. and i realize the department of energy and others have focused on that issue and should continue to focus on that issue. the entire transportation pathway needs to be energized. so i think it is site specific but i am certain that almost every site in the nation would have to have some sort of upgrade. >> i think it is important to understand that. >> thank you. i think it is critically important. i think you brought so much expertise to the table and i appreciate it very much. instead of asking the question right now at the beginning of my time, i'm going to ask senator cortez the, since she's been leading this effort and has more skin in the game than any of us sitting here, i would like for
her to explain what she's trying to achieve right now and how we can help. >> thank you, thank you, ranking member manchin for this opportunity. i know it is rare. let me stay recommendations provided by the blue ribbon commission. i believe do provide us a blueprint to follow, particularly when employing a consent based method for site selection. my state and what i'm asking is that the state of nevada be included in this framework of the legislation. to be treated equally and fairly alongside all the other states. that's all we're asking. and i would like to ask you and ranking member manchin to work with me as this bill proceeds. >> you have my insurance on that and all of you all i think have basically expressed in your opening statements that it has to have a buy-in. they can either say yay or nay. i think that's important. we have to move forward.
i want to understand. you all get paid by the federal government for storage on site since it never took responsibility as far as putting it in a repository. correct? >> well, senator, to be more clear, we have to sue to get that money. >> you have to sue to get the money. >> every five years we sue the federal government for the previous four years of the storage costs and go through it. >> you just that, you're suing for, and you received $30 million when your actual cost is $6.5. >> i may have confused you. i was trying to be clear. i think the differentiation -- the difference between the actual cost to safely and securely store it versus the cost that we have to incur as the total cost. >> the cost you're incurring right now. you're incurring it by keeping
onsite. >> yes. we have onsite storage component to our litigation. >> is it safe? >> it is safe, yes. >> and i would assume since it is safe and you're able to do and it have no incidents, there no, sir urge enand i maybe congress has drug its feet for 30 years for that reason. it hasn't come to critical mass. and dr. wagner, you might want to talk on that. would you consider it is safe storage? >> your point is exactly right. it has continued to be safely stored. securely stored. >> the public is not at threat. >> that's right. that's the crux of the problem. we don't have a crisis per se in terms of safety or security as the utility and the private sector has done an outstanding job, in terms of safety and security. >> i'm told, we have plants
coming offline and we're talking about climate change and we're talking about the decarbonizing. and bill gates raised it very high. in five years we're going to zero. we're not going more nuclear decarbonization energy. we're going to less. is it because you're running out of room? >> no. dry storage can be improved and we have a whole set of suggestions on hardened onsite storage that we think would work better while we get a repository program on track along the lines of what the brc suggested. i would urge you, i think it is a long footnote three, your staff can review and our testimony, the actual waste issue honestly, senator, has not and is not what is holding up nuclear power's ability to compete in the market. what is holding up nuclear power's ability to compete in
the market are its gigantic up front capital costs. the south carolina reactors that are now in $9 billion hole in the ground at summer, and vogel is now pushing. the likelihood is vanishing. >> the existing nuclear power in the decommission units have gone offline. could they have been restored? could they have been improved upon? >> they're not shutting down relative to used fuel. used fuel is a necessary issue that we need to address. >> why are they shutting down? >> it leads to building more nuclear plants and people's concerns about creating additional waste when the current waste -- >> my question is, we're decommissioning some nuclear plants. have they run their life cycle? >> not all of them.
>> they're being shut down because in the marketplace right now, the marketplace does not recognize the carbon-free attribute of nuclear. >> so there's no valley. >> not in the marketplace there's not. there should be. and that would help. >> are any of these plant in basically controlled pscs? or all merchant? >> the ones shutting down for the most part are merchant. >> i think we've gone to asking for stability. and that would be most important to save them from going offline. >> thank you. and i wanted to respond to that. you asked a very direct question of me. know that i do understand the importance of this issue to you, your delegation and to your
constituency. and i want to be very clear that i'm very open to working on this bill with you, with senator manchin. any other senators interested and working on it. senator alexander, senator feinstein and i introduced this bill. understanding that changes are going to be needed to bring it in line with current policies. so i'm aware of the language that you have offered along with senator rosen and senator manchin. that you believe it could improve the bill. i look forward to discussing the language with you as we're moving forward. i think we all want to find the practical path with you. >> thank you, madam chairman. let me see if i can get down to the crux of the problem. we have a world concerned about climate change and the effect of climate conditions on climate change. and 60% of the u.s. electricity
that is carbon free is nuclear powered. and 11 nuclear plants are closing by 2025. and most of them will close over the next several years for a variety of reasons. one of the reasons is we have nowhere to put the waste offsite which the nuclear law requires as a result, they came one several ways to move ahead. including a new yucca mountain in effect. a new repository. new interim storage and there are a couple of private storage sites. so there are four places to put this waste that we're talking about. we collected $40 billion from rate payers to store. and we're paying 2.5 million in damages. we have four places that we could, four tracks we could follow to do something. we can have a yucca mountain
open. we can have a public interim site or a private interim site. if you cannot do yucca mountain, can't do anything else. do you agree with that? do you agree if we can't agree in the congress to proceed ahead with yucca mountain, that we should stop trying to build a new yucca mountain? consent based? a new public interim site, consent based or proving a new private site? >> my question is, should we stop trying anything else? >> i think we've spent an awful lot of money and i think it should move forward. >> if we cannot do yucca mountain, which we haven't been able to do for 35 years. should we stop doing everything else that this legislation and
the blue ribbon commission said we could do? >> we should move forward. >> let me go down the line. if we can't do yucca mountain, should we stop trying any of the other tracks? >> i agree, senator. i think the country should get a return on the $15 billion. >> my question is, if we can't do yucca mountain, should we stop trying any other solution? >> no, sir. we should not stop trying. >> i agree. >> that's the issue. we should finish yucca mountain. but what happens is, the senate won't agree to fund the next year's funding of yucca mountain which is only to determine whether it is safe or not.
so the house won't agree to have a new repository, a new public site. a new private interim site. we ought to try all four tracks. even if we were to move ahead. the language of the bill that's proposed has language that says this shall not affect any proceeding for license or permit penguin before the commission on the date of enactment of this act. that says we're side stepping yucca mountain and moving ahead with these permanent repository and public interim sites. but today that might affect the private sites. does that mean that the
provisions including the procedures wouldn't apply to the penning applications from new mexico and texas for a private site? >> you asked the right question. texas and new mexico would be barred from the consent process. clearly by the terms of the bill. >> we think that would put us in precisely the same stalemate. >> you thought because of the promise they have, they ought to have priorities. is that correct? >> we think they should have priority. the challenge right now is they don't want to be the de facto long term storage which keeps it connected to a long term storage answer. >> well, my own view, mr. ranking member, is that the private sites are our best option, our fastest option. they should have priority and we
should consider whether the consent based provisions which do not now apply to them, should, and if they do, whether that would slow down the private sites which hold so much promise. >> thank you. i appreciate your commitment to working and pushing all of us toward solutions. senator hinrich. >> you mention that had the market right now just doesn't value carbon-free nuclear power. have they endorsed putting a price on carbon as a way to build that value into the market? >> yes. we've had discussions about a variety of ways to value nuclear and the marketplace in the states, for example. there are zero emission credits that have been discussed and we have supported that in new york and illinois. >> have you endorsed putting a
prois on carbon as a way -- >> those zero emission credits? >> at the federal level. >> we had a conversation around it. >> from a member perspective, there are different views. >> has nei endorsed it at the federal level? >> not an explicit tax on carbon. but value on carbon, yes. >> it is not a complicated question. why shouldn't the pending sites be part of the consent based approach when we know that not using a consent based process, which by the way, the blue ribbon commission, was adamant about, has been a path to failure over and over again as we see in nevada. >> why shouldn't pending
applications also be part of a consent based approach. >> as written, it says it is a pending application. that needs to be evaluated. >> i'm not asking about the legislation. i'm asking, should we use a consent based process for all applications? >> yes. we're consent based. >> so madam chair, i guess i'm a little frustrated because we've been doing the same thing over and over for a long time and not getting somewhere. and i'm actually, you know, i've spent enough time in the nuclear reactor when i was getting my engineering degree that i'm actually quite proud of the work that i did in one of the larger areas. we've heard local input, state
input, i think that's a mistake. the problem is, we've ignored the politics for decades. so one of the things that's very concerning to me, if we move forward on interim sites, especially if it is without consent. and you have a consolidated storage facility that is filled with waste. and we never build the permanent site. what recourse is the state going to have if a permanent disposal facility is never built? and i think we owe it to this conversation to answer these questions before we expect somebody to take possession in what will be a permanent, what could effectively be a permanent situation. i want to enter a couple of letters into the record. i have a letter here from new mexico. i have a governor from the state
land commission of new mexico. both objecting to interim storage. and i would ask consent that they be included. record of the hearing. what should consent look like? >> consent should look like regulatory authority. to the extent there has been acceptance in new mexico of the only operating one in the world -- >> why do we have consent for that? >> it's a little complicated and it's not nearly the consent that needs to be there and it's not the full regulatory authority but the state has hazardous waste permitting authority and the state can shut the place down and set terms under which it can operate after it had a fire and explosion that contaminated it for several
years. >> we opened that facility which is the only the only deep geological repository that's been successfully built that i'm aware of in this country because of the state's involvement. so i think we need to look at that model and look at what you suggested in terms of a different regulatory approach if we're going to get out of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. >> senator, if i could interject, i'd just like to point out that i don't agree with mr. fettis's intertwining the concept of regulatory authority with consent. i think you can have consent. >> but i do. >> fair enough. but i think that the regulatory authority that's present in the united states can be handled in a separate manner. i think consent goes back to contracts. if you look at the history of the nuclear waste matter, it is
only because the generators of nuclear waste entered into a contract with the federal government that was a two-way contract. you pay money and you get something back, the waste removed from your site. if it wasn't for that contract we would be in an even worse situation than we are today. >> senator, i just want to reiterate what i mentioned to senator cortez masto. when we introduced this legislation, we did so knowing that we're laying down a marker for conversation. because quite honestly we need to restart this. so i appreciate the points that you have raised and they will be part of this ongoing discussion here. so i want to make sure that colleagues know and understand i don't view this bill as the end all be all, but we've got to start or restart at some point.
so i thank you for that. let's go to senator lee. >> thank you very much, madam chair. the traditional forms of nuclear energy generated a whole lot more waste than many of the methods that we're talking about at today's hearing. the sheer volume currently in interim storage around the country and also the lack of a permanent storage, permanent disposal solution are things that are frequently cited as reasons why we shouldn't continue to develop our nation's nuclear energy capabilities. i've got a question for you. dr. wagner mentioned several small reactors. how much more efficiently would these smaller reactors use fuel than reactors in past decades
and could you describe how these new forms of nuclear energy could possibly change our need for nuclear waste storage going forward? >> i guess as you look forward there's a variety of different types of small modular reactors that can be built. but some of them would actually be interested in using a different type of fuel and some of that fuel could be, in fact, what we consider used fuel today. in any solution set that we put in, we should remind ourselves that we want it to be retrievable. there's 95% still good energy in what we call used fuel. it's just in a different form. some of these reactors that are being looked at for tomorrow will be able to harvest that energy. >> and will be able to use it far below that 95% threshold that you described? >> that is correct. >> how low would they go? >> they should be able to use the majority of that good
energy. i would say, you know, you'll be down to maybe the 4-5%, quote, unquote that's left that would then need to be stored. >> it brings up another topic. i don't know whether that plays into what happens then. could it be reprocessed, recycled as another means of dealing with or need to have a disposal site for spent fuel could be addressed through recycles or reproceing or repro. it's my understanding that ' iir countries that rely on nuclear energy have recycled waste in a way that's deemed safe and clean. could you describe the process of how nuclear fuel is recycled and the history of why this process has been banned in the united states? >> sure. it sort of goes back to when we said there's 95% still good energy in what we call used
fuel. it's transformed. instead of being uranium 235 it's turned into uranium 238 or plutonium 239. those isotopes can still release energy, but not in the current way in our current light water reactors. in recycling what you do is you essentially take the fuel apart and isolate what's good and can be used again. so that uranium and plutonium can be mixed and used in current reactors called mox fuel or other types of reactors. again, it sort of closes the fuel cycle, if you will. you're left with a very small amount that is not useful in a fuel. france, as an example, reprocesses their fuel. they turn that into a glass and then you store that inert glass
rget . >> it's not emitting -- >> it's radioactive but it's not useful for fuel so it's stored in a deep geologic situation but it would be a very small amount. >> it reduces the overall volume of what's produced. >> that is correct. >> why wouldn't we do that? >> in the united states we've chosen not to. we've chosen the fact that -- and this was made in the carter administration days, that the fact of reprocessing, they look at it as potential proliferation even though there are many processes and things you could put in place to ensure that it's done without any kind of proliferation concerns. but that's why the united states doesn't currently go for reprocessing today. >> if that decision was made in the carter administration, we're talking about 40 years ago or more. >> that is correct. >> what has changed since then that might cause us to need to reconsider that? has the technology changed in such a way that what was
perceived as dangerous would no longer be deemed dangerous? >> i think we've proven we have the capability of managing things. >> thank you. >> first i'd like to enter into the record analysis of this bill made by the nevada agency for nuclear products and concerns by any colleague senator jackie rosen. >> those will be part of the record. >> i'm sorry senator alexander had to leave. we do need a comprehensive approach for the future. here's the one thing i am seeking and which is why senator
alexander in 1987, i believe it was, tennessee was able to successfully remove the oakridge facility as an interim storage facili facility, changed the law. and now in this bill tennessee has equally the opportunity to say no excelike any other state except nevada. my state. that's what i'm looking for. this bill creatkre requires thel host state to veto or approve a site before they are fully informed of a site's local impacts prior to initiating a review licensing process. that leaves yucca mountain as the default sole repository. gives parity to all other states yet allows yucca mountain and
new mexico, texas and utah to be kept on the list without requiring their consent. section 509 eliminates the legal 70,000 metric ton of limit waste to be stored at a repository. if no state wants to be a host, this guarantees all the waste goes to yucca mountain. my request is that we all be treated equally. i so appreciate, again, the conversation today nap. that's why jackie rosen and i have submitted these recommended amendments to the committee to this bill that treats nevada equally. let me start with some of the questions and comments i've heard today. first of all, mr. fettis, if we are to move forward in a comprehensive approach, what is the best way to rebuild the american people's confidence in federal government's ability to provide safe long-term storage of high level nuclear waste.
>> i think you've targeted the right issue, senator. that is confidence. i'd also put it as trust. and we certainly support your idea of getting everybody treated equally under the consent. we would take it a step farther in that if we just keep the current system of trying to keep it as consent, everyone will just say no because the entire burden is on. that's what we're trying to build, is a process where states and epa can have trust and confidence and say yes in our process. that's the specific point of our testimony. >> thank you. would n.e.i. support the new act as created in this bill if the nwa walked away from the yucca mountain project and demonstrated that a new project could be done more efficiently and rapidly than yucca mountain, yes or no? >> i guess i would reflect to
say that we believe that nevada does have a say in the process by continuing with the conversations around yucca. >> that wasn't my question. my question was this, under this act would the n.e.i. support this act if the nwa walked away from the yucca mountain project and demonstrated that a new repository project could be done more efficiently and rapidly than yucca mountain, would you support that? >> i don't see how another process could be done more rapidly with all of the analysis that's already been done on yucca. but if you found such a magic place, yes, we could be -- >> d.o.e. studies have shown that walking afrway could save billions of dollars over the life of the facility. we've had a stalemate over the last 32 years and we have offered the opportunity to come in and work with us and find a solution for it and i think you
have that today. but unfortunately what i see from the industry is this same old playbook and not willing to be even admit there's an opportunity to move forward. there's not even a willingness to talk about potential new technology that can be utilized to address the safe storage. that is my concern. we need time now for everybody to come together and move forward on this issue. >> we're happy to have those conversations. >> thank you. >> madam chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today. i joined this committee 11 years ago and we were talking about this then. unfortunately the discussion today doesn't sound a whole lot different than it did 11 years ago. >> it's going to change. >> thank you, madam chair. maybe your bill will get us there. first of all, thank you for inviting mr. wagner here. he's really the appropriate person to have here which i'll address in a second. i'm also sorry that senator alexander left because he's the
smartest guy on the panel. he left tennessee and moved to idaho and worked at oakridge for 17 years. >> you're lucky alexander didn't hear that. >> he'll hear it. it's appropriate that he be here because the idaho national laboratory of course is the birth place of nuclear energy in america and in the world indeed. we still have the three light bulbs that we lit, the the first three light bulbs we lit with nuclear energy there. we don't use them regularly but they're still there. in any event, because they were the birthplace of nuclear energy, the site has been used for decades for various things in the nuclear energy business and in the nuclear arms business. we became a waste site for a lot
of the waste that was developed during the cold war. my point is this. in about the 1970s, the state of idaho was unhappy with the department of energy because they were not properly addressing in our belief that the waste should be handled properly. as a result of that we in idaho sued the department of energy and eventually entered into a consent decree with the federal government for cleanup at the idaho national lab. all of us following that stood shoulder to shoulder behind that agreement and have executed that agreement. and the department of energy, although recalcitrant at the beginning, has now embraced the agreement. of course, there's been a lot of turnover with the people that were involved and everything. but the bottom line is this, we have been very successful at the idaho national lab as far as cleanup is concerned.
we've addressed virtually every problem there successfully. we're not done yet. isn't that correct, mr. wagner? we're a long ways down the road, though. fair statement? >> absolutely. >> we've had thousands of people, great people over the years from all over the united states, from idaho, who have worked on this and who are really smart at this. we've proven that you can deal with nuclear waste and it can be cleaned up and put into storage. some semipermanent, some temporary, but it's been done. it's discouraging after sitting here all these years and not really having moved the ball very far down the field, we've done that in idaho. this is a serious problem. my good friend from new mexico say we've ignored the politics.
gosh, i would really disagree with that. it becomes a political issue every time there's a presidential campaign and nevada's in play, that becomes a political issue. it's also true here. i've seen it over the years as the senate races develop in nevada. there's got to be a better way of doing this. i thank you for holding this hearing. just as dr. wagner has done in idaho, as we've done in idaho, i think there is a solution, but we're going to have to come together to do it. hopefully this bill will start the conversation. thank you so much for the hearing. >> thank you, senator. we really don't want this to be deja vu all over again. it's been three congresses now. in the meantime, whether it's yankee, doesn't make any difference where you are, we haven't been able to address the longer term issues that must be
addressed. and folks are looking to us for that legislative direction. and we've got an obligation to do it. just because it's hard, just because it's politically charged, just because it's expensi expensive, 2.2 million bucks a day that's just going out the window isn't helping. >> you hit on a good note about the fact we have an obligation to do this. it's discouraging to see that the nuclear energy business is going backwards not only in america but all over the world. people are backing away from nuclear energy and plants are closing. some have reached the end of their life, some that haven't. at the same time there is this tremendous push to try to get carbon out of the air and quit discharging carbon in the air. solar and wind are great generators, but they just don't
deliver the load. at some point in time the carbon fuels run out and nuclear's going to be there. you know, it may not be in this century, but future human beings on the planet are going to rely very heavily on nuclear. and it's up to us to come up with resolving this bottleneck that is causing us so much problem. >> i appreciate that. i think we all agree that nuclear should be a strong part of our mix. but just as we're seeing facilities that are being shut down, what that then does to the workforce is it too dissipates and we lose the leadership that we once had. we once used to lead when it came to manufacturing of nuclear components. you know, we basically seeded that in so many different areas. we can't lose the workforce along with that. let's go to senator king. >> thank you, madam chair. i experienced and saw a similar
thing happen in hydro. major hydro developments were pretty much done in the 20s. when we got back into hydro in the 80s a lot of the expertise was gone, a lot of the engineers. there were very few firms that really knew how to do it. a lot of the technology was almost a century eelold. you present an appealing plan, state based, consent based. >> thank you. >> i haven't finished yet. don't get excited. >> he hasn't got to the but yet. >> however, what if every state says no? which i think is not unlikely. i lived through in the '80s an effort to even discuss a low level nuclear site in maine. the outcry was unbelievable.
what if every state says no, where are we then? >> the same place we are now and we have to try, just as senator murkowski is, i think, wisely leading this with a very open mind, the reason why everyone has said no repeatedly, no matter who it is, whether it was then governor alexander in tenness tennessee, the fine state of utah. we have a consolidated interim storage in this country right now that will never receive a gram of waste and it's in utah. senator hatch helped put a wilderness area in order to block it from ever receiving that waste. the problem -- and i really appreciated the talk of the committee that it's not just about politics. politics are how we actually -- >> politics are an expression of the public will. >> right.
>> i don't like it when somebody says we're not going to let politics block these things. that's the public speaking. >> i couldn't agree more. and we have to take account of that. and the we we've done that remarkably in this country with all kinds of difficult controversial issues are through our bedrock environmental statutes where we have a strong epa that sets a strong foundational floor of protective standards and then states have delegated programs, whether it's air, water, something else. if you build a widget factory, the state can protect its citizens, its environment, its waterways, whatever. >> assume for a moment my hypothetical that we can't find a state that says yes, they all say now. then we're back where we are now. we've got 80 so-called temporary sites, one in maine.
costing the rate payers through the federal government $10 million a year. that's the fallback. >> can i do my coda? >> if you can do it quickly. >> super fast. >> i'm running out of time. >> we have a vastly higher chance of actually having states get to yes if they don't have to take the entire burden. it also solves some of the transportation issues. they can do regional, state. >> regional is better because of transportation. >> correct. >> the transportation routes to nevada, i've seen them. chicago, kansas city. >> almost every congressional district. >> two or three trains a week for years to take care of what we've got. >> correct. yep. >> okay. >> if i could interject. >> yes. >> part of the problem with consent is who consents. the current situation in nevada, the people who live closest to
the repository have expressed their political consent for the facility there. >> i think the lady that sits next to me knows more about what the people of nevada feel. >> i understand that. when you add the additional level of government in between at the state level, it becomes very difficult. and no one in the world has solved that conundrum to date. >> what if everyone says no? i don't think that's totally unlikely. let me ask a technical question. why is it that we're talking about now, forever and always deep holes, mines? we've got these sites around the country like at maine yankee that you all have said are safe. why not use an interim technology to allow technology to develop over the next 20-30 years and yet still be safe at a more centralized site. it bothers me that we've got 80 sites. i don't think that's very secure. >> a couple of things. one is that if you don't have a
permanent solution, the ability to convince a particular location as we've talked about at this hearing -- >> if the maine yankee site is safe, why not a larger similar site that has the same technology? you're telling me everyone says it's safe. as an interim step until we figure out what the best -- i don't understand why we have to go from 80 temporary to permanent. isn't there a step in between? >> that's what consolidated interim storage is. >> that's what i'm talking about. >> the challenge is nobody wants to sign up for consolidated interim storage. in new mexico the governor just recently wrote a letter. the last new mexico governor was in support of interim storage. the current new mexico governor not. and the challenge is because they don't want to become the long-term repository. until there has an idea of a long-term repository, anybody that raises their hands for that consolidated interim storage is de facto long-term storage.
>> i think that's correct. >> the actual problem we also face and the obama administration tried to look at deep bore hole disposal in south dakota towards the end of its second term and it turned into an absolute debacle. this is red state south dakota was objecting. it gets precisely to the reasons we're articulated today, which is that when you're outside of the normal functioning of environmental law, states have no control. so south dakota erupted just as new mexico has, just as nevada has been fighting for 35 years. and when you don't fix the institutional framework to allow the process to get to yes, we're never going to solve this. >> i think it's important to recognize that a private company did conduct a deep drill hole test successfully. i think what that points to is the need to get the management of the waste program away from the department of energy and put
it into a single purpose. >> which is what you're suggesting. >> -- organization that is dedicated to actual success. we have submitted in our comments, in our testimony comments along those lines. >> as i understand it the bill essentially says this is the way we're going to proceed except yucca mountain still on a different track that doesn't require consent. madam chairman, thank you. >> i'm going to turn to senator manchin. >> i just want to have clarification because something's not making a lot of sense to me. you're telling me we're not filled up on site right now. so whenever t so they're still able to keep that storage there, is that accurate? >> we can continue to expand on-site storage as needed. >> so we're not at critical mass
there. i kind of thought we were. i was head to belieled to belied to do something immediately. >> if you've got sites like mine where the reactor is fully decommissioned, we sit there loaded, ready to be transported waiting for some resolution to this. >> i understand. i'm going to get to that next because now you're talking about going to interim sites. that doesn't make any sense to me at all, because an interim site has to be transported again to a permanent site. >> senator, i would like to add in my testimony i pointed this out, i'd like to note the difference between perceived risk and actual risk. transportation of nuclear material is an area where perceived risk is ordered of magnitude greater than the actual risk. >> the only thing i'm saying is it looks like you're just creating a business model for the interim since we've got to get to permanent.
so why would you have us paying privately -- >> it's just a timing issue. if you decided today on a long-term repository site, by the time you license it, let's just select yucca since we've talked about it, that would still be another 3-5 years just to license it today. because all of the analysis has been done and there's additional hearings that have to happen. >> if we're not at capacity why would we have an interim site? >> that's just to get your license. it's going to be another decade to build it. you have 15 years if you were on go today. 35 billion is what your obligation is today. and in 15 years it's going to be closer to 50 billion. so you have to manage the liability that you are building on a daily basis. the best way to help manage that liability is that interim storage. because once you start taking that fuel off site, eventually
that judgment fund comes down, because you don't have to pay the judgment fee because you've taken the fuel in an interim state. >> how far along are we on permitting the interim sites? >> you're nowhere. >> whether we started today with interim or permanent, it's the same timetable. >> there's two sites that have applications in. whether they will actually go forward and construct those sites is an open question at this point. >> senator, there are applications. there will be a ferocious pushback for all the reasons i've articulated today. i couldn't agree more with the lack of wisdom of pursuing an dr interim site that's likely to become a de facto repository which doesn't solve the long-term trajectory of how to solve this. >> the advantage of an interim site is that if you provide security and monitoring at one location versus dozens of
location, there are kpleconomief scale advantages for doing that if you're going to do it for a very long time. >> i can say for the state of washington, there's probably no more important discussion and the cleanup and disposal of high level nuclear waste. for a state that did what was asked of us and the people that were there in the development of h hanford to the people that have done their best at cleanup, we too want to get answers to this. i agree with senator alexander that moving forward is a very necessary and positive thing. and i would say that count me in the catch of the belief that consensus based approaches are more likely to generate quicker results than the legal and long process that we have seen to continue to play out.
if you pass legislation, that doesn't mean you've cleared the legal hurdles that continue to stymie us in these debates. one of the things that senator alexander and others have referred to have the blue ribbon committee and their discussion. one of the things that i liked about the commission recommendations was that they thought that separating commercial and defense waste and dealing with that separately might be one of those near term opportunities to make more progress. do you have a thought on continuing to look at that as a path forward? >> i think that's a secondary issue, senator. >> it's not secondary to us because we're the ones waiting. i forget to put the big moniker out here. this is the largest nuclear waste cleanup site in the entire world. >> agreed. >> it's complex, it's hard.
we're making progress, but we need to get the high level waste out. so let's come up with a process of moving the defense waste out. the complexity of senator feinstein's concerns on the commercial side are going to take us a long time to figure out. just like hanford is cleaning up some easy to clean up things and getting to the harder things, why can't we move on with defense? >> i think the challenge of the defense waste getting to a repository is going to be the same with nuclear spent fuel, that if you don't have the statutory and regulatory process, you won't solve it. >> i want a consent process that's faster and if they will take that, i'm just saying streamline defense so it can get done faster. >> if you can get all the waste out of the tanks and get it vis vitrified, that would be great.
>> we're doing it on behalf of the united states. this is a responsibility of the united states of america, not just the state of washington or environmental director. i will tell you as we fight every time on some idea that is shortchanging the cleanup process or an idea, we're desperate to move the defense waste in a way in which people are sag ying to us we want it a we will take it. we want to explore those ideas and see if we can't move forward. thank you, madam chair. >> it's good to be here. i want to thank you and ranking member manchin for holding this important hearing this morning. this congress, this committee has discussed exciting and innovative ways to address climate change. we've explored carbon capture technologi technologies, renewable resources and advanced nuclear power and energy. some have stressed that nuclear energy is an essential part of
our clean energy portfolio. if we are serious about addressing climate change, we must be serious about preserving and expanding the use of nuclear energy. cannot do it without nuclear energy. the waste limits the use and the expansion of nuclear power. in may i chaired an environment public works committee hearing on my discussion draft legislation that would complement and could complement senator murkowski and senator alexander's nuclear waste legislation. eight states right now have bans on new nuclear until washington permanently disposes of nuclear waste. communities across the country are struggling to accept new nuclear plants because there is no permanent pathway to remove the nuclear waste. i'm glad this committee is holding this hearing to address these challenges. so american rate payers have now paid about $15 billion to site,
to study and design a repository for the yucca mountain site. of this funding $200 million was paid to the state of nevada to develop their own scientific and technical analysis. why is it important for the nuclear regulatory commission to complete the independent safety review of the proposed yucca mountain repository? >> well, you just mentioned the significant money that has been expe expended. we should have a fair hearing and quite frankly give nevada a chance to have their hearing. the process will require that it goes through the judges, et cetera, through the licensing process and for all this money that has been expended, let's understand the science and the licensing process and work ourself through it. in the future we might need another long-term repository, so
let's learn everything that we can and understand the science and the licensing process for the one that's so far along. >> following up on that, why is it important -- you note that the nuclear regulatory commission's yucca licensing review is valuable. it's valuable to inform safety regulations for a different repository site. is it also important to complete theing licensing process to build the public trust? >> absolutely. there's other reasons why it is beneficial for the american people to go forward and complete the licensing even if yucca mountain isn't built. we don't know what the answer is until we do it. i mean, if something is found that says this is not the right place to do it, we've got to go find another solution. we need to go through the process in order to demonstrate the ability to license a geologic repository for use fuel
and high level radioactive waste here in the united states. we're going to learn a great number of lessons for that. and having invested $15 billion already, i think it only makes sense to get a little more return for that huge investment. the only other thing i'll say along those lines is, it is the law that we do that. if we demonstrate that we're going to follow the law here, if we change the law and do something different later, then people will believe we'll follow the law there too. >> like senator murkowski's bill, my nuclear waste discussion draft allows the secretary of energy to partner with private companies to store spent nuclear fuel on an interim basis. the draft requires the interim storage program to proceed at the same time as the nuclear regulatory commission's review of the yucca mountain license application. do you support a requirement that interim storage is
connected to tangible action on a permanent repository for nuclear waste? >> yes. in fact, we think it enables that interim storage. people will see, all right, you have this path for a long-term answer, i'm happy to participate in your shorter term answer because i understand that this pathway exists. >> the idaho national lab is a leader, a real leader in developing advanced nuclear technologies. it's also the proposed site of the nation's first small modular reactor which is going to provide nuclear power to the intermountain waste. advanced nuclear reactors can reduce the amount of nuclear waste. while advanced nuclear can reduce nuclear waste, will there still be nuclear waste products that must be permanently disposed of? >> the short answer is yes. there's a variety of concepts that can significantly increase fuel utilization. there's also different concepts that maria spoke about earlier that close the nuclear fuel
cycle through reprocessing. at the end of the day there's always going to be some small amount of material that requires deep geological repository. >> thank you. >> i was going to ask a question about what's the number, how many additional storage facilities, long-term repositories do we need? and as i'm thinking about that, well, we don't know because of exactly what you have said, mr. wagner, moving forward what will the future of nuclear bring to us in terms of advanced nuclear and the prospect for less waste? we've talked about reprocessing. i think we know what we know today, but the innovation, i think that is out there is still evolving, if you will. the view into the deep bore
hol holes, we may be look at yucca as, okay, this is the design for what we needed 20 years ago, but is it the design that we need going forward. and so i think we need to factor that into the calculus. the question for those of you who have looked at the legislation that we've laid down here basically as our working document, do you think we do enough in this proposed legislation to be specific about the type of research and development that d.o.e. or the administration needs to move forward on? do we need to do more on that? we've been talking so much about this whole consent-based process and the interim and moving to permanent. we haven't really talked about some of the context of this bill
that can move the industry forward. do we need to do more? >> yes, senator. if i could, madam chairman, a couple of things i wanted to reflect on in your question, and i had this conversation with maria's predecessor probably six or seven years ago when my sites and the other decommissioning plant coalition sites -- at the time there was five of us -- were kind of the poster child of this prop. we operated the plant, we've decommissioned the plant. we're waiting. i told them this was less focus on it both at n.e.i. and the industry than there is today. i did tell them on the path we're at then and potentially the path we're on now, more than 50% of our nuclear fleet will be in the same condition i'm in before we solve this problem if we keep trying to same thing we've been trying for the last 20 years. i don't think he believed me. but if he was watching it today, the number of plants that have
either shut down or announced shut down, my estimate is not going to be far off even if we get moving from here. it is a clear problem. it is a clear issue. i think senate 1234 although we have comments that would make recommendations on changes is a good starting point for us to work together to figure out how to resolve this problem, because what we have been doing for the last 20 years is not going to work. i'd also like to acknowledge senator king and his question about are we really thinking about this the right way. and i think that need to be asked. i know there's scientists and others that may have a difference of opinion here, but i do think we have to challenge ourselves as to did we really plot the right course with our original plan for repository and is there an alternative way to think about this by consolidating this waste, looking at either reprocessing or other technical advancements, other options that other countries are looking at and take the blinders off and look
at this more wholistically. >> appreciate that. >> senator, i'd just like to add a couple of things. american nuclear society does support continued research into advanced nuclear energy systems and advanced waste management techniques. there's privates companies out there working on this area as well. i think the question of where that needs to reside whether it's in your bill or other legislation is a good question. the work in idaho, they are looking at advanced energy systems in a wholistic manner that includes the waste management issue and i think they need to continue that work. >> got it. >> the commission wisely cautioned against trusting in reprocessing as any meaningful solution for nuclear waste. the off ramp, it's pastime for the off ramp on recycling of spent fuel in this country. it's both dangerous
proliferation and security concerns, it creates more waste and it will not solve the waste problem and no country has used it to solve their waste problem. most of all, it's economical and the brc identified it likely never will be. >> dr. wagner, do you want to comment to that? >> we don't currently recycle because it's not economical. one of the many benefits talked about with respect to consolidated interim storage is that whether in time it becomes economical with the substantial growth of nuclear energy or other technologies for waste disposal and design of repositories come into play. a consolidated interim storage facility allows you to make progress to move forward on this issue while some of those other things may or may not come to be other options for the material. >> appreciate that. we've just had a vote start. i'd like to allow my colleagues
an opportunity for a last word if they would like. senator cortez masto? >> actually i do. thank you. thank you for being here. the arguments you make are the arguments i've heard for the last 30 years from the industry. but you make one argument that talks about yucca mountain being utilized to learn from the science and that's why it should move forward. we should learn from the science from yucca mountain because there are no natural or man made barriers that make it safe. if we were to learn from the science of yucca mountain which would require still 40 more miles of tunnel, to dig the tunnel to bury the canisters. the same canisters utilized in yucca mountain for the study can't be utilized because the industry doesn't use the same type of canisters. i'm told it's so hot once it's stored it leaks like a sieve. that once canisters are there, titanium drip shields will have
to be created to put over the canisters. those titanium drip shields would not be placed in that facility until 90 years later and it cannot be placed by man so you have to build robotics to protect the water that goes into the canisters that would go to the audiocassette w aquifer bel. >> having the concerns you just addressed evaluated by a panel of experts and ruled on in a manner that we could learn from them them. >> why do we need that if we haven't have the information? we've spent $19 billion on a five-mile exploratory tunnel to study the geology and hydrology. we know it's going to leak. that's why the titanium drip shields are part of your plan
for the canisters that will be placed there. that's why i'm saying we already have the information that shows it's not safe. why are we going to waste another 30 years with 218 contentions by the state and lawsuits that i know i was part of as attorney general against the department of energy instead of looking forward in a comprehensive approach and utilizing the science to help us understand in moving forward and the new technology that is out there. that's all i'm looking for. i'd love the industry to come to the table and work with us on that. >> the key question at yucca mountain is not whether it's built and volcanic tough but whether it can or cannot comply with the environmental standards that were laid down to protect the safety of the public. that's the question that would be resolved in a licensing hearing before fair, impartial and qualified judges. >> i disagree. let me add a little bit more to this. i think for purposes of science
we really are -- and i would ask the scientists here. isn't the intent here to decrease any type of unexpected opportunities with respect to science? so you want a place that is safe that you are going to decrease any vulnerabilities with respect to that deep geologic site instead of adding to those vulnerabilities by manmade alleged safety barriers or natural safety barriers. you're going to decrease those vulnerabilities. isn't that what you're really looking for for any type of a deep geologic site? >> i couldn't agree more. the idea behind any geologic repository is to find geologic media that can isolate the waste for a length of time. it's dangerous. the problem with the yucca mountain project is whether it ran into the technical challenges that you so
accurately described, the response was to weaken the standards to allow the site to be licensed. so we don't look at the upcoming atomic safety and licensing board proceeding if it were to ever go forward as a full exercise in having the state have a fair say. >> if i could just add since we were talking about drip shields, we do know that an analysis was done back in 2008 that found that the repository was capable of meeting the regulatory requirements without the drip shields, that they had sufficient defense in depth. the drip shields were designed as an additional redun hasndant lairer lair -- layer of protection. >> and then adding them as necessary. again, i'm all for moving forward. i think we have to have a solution here. and i think we have to be smart
about it. this is waste that is going to be there for millions of years for generations to come for our children and grandchildren and we've got to do right by them and we have to be coming together in this country to address this issue. >> thank you, senator. to our panel, we appreciate your contribution this morning. we all acknowledge that we have an issue that has been a longstanding issue that has not been resolved and our effort will be to defy the skeptics and to change the status quo which quite honestly has been going on for far too long. i don't want senator rich to be sitting here in this committee five years from now in a similar hearing and saying, i remember back in 2019 we were talking about it and it was the same
that it was when i first came to the committee. we've got good folks working on things so let's try to address this very longstanding problem. with that, the committee stands adjourned. here's a look at our prime time schedule on the c-span networks. starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, president trump holds a campaign rally with voters and supporters in cincinnati. at 8:00 p.m. on c-span 2, a hearing on legislation that aims
to change the rules on asylum seekers while establishing processing centers outside the u.s. and at 8:00 eastern on c-span 3, programs and events related to the civil war. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, comparisons between abraham lincoln and andrew johnson on the constitution. >> you take a look at the whole cartoon. it's a very different impression of what people thought of johnson and the constitution at the time, not that he was a defender, but that he did not understand the constitution, it was above his ability and that he was acting in unconstitutional ways. >> sunday at 6:00 on american artifacts, a preview of the 19th amendment exhibit at the national archives. >> women in new jersey who were america's first voters beginning in 1776 when new jersey became a
sta state, the new jersey state constitution made no mention of sex when discussing voting qualifications. it only had a property requirement. so women who owned enough property, primarily widows and single women, so not all women in new jersey, could and did vote in elections at the local, state and national level. >> and at 8:00 p.m. on the presidency, author john farrell talks about nixon's early life and career. >> in 1947 and early 1948, he campaigned for the marshal plan. he went to every crowd that would take him. he told them he owed them his best judgment, not his obedience. and he convinced them. when the party primaryinimaries held, richard nixon did not just win the republican nomination,
he won the democratic nomination. he had wagered everything and carried the day. he ran unopposed his first reelection campaign. live now to the annual national conservative student conference. we're starting shortly. we're expecting remarks from florida senator rick scott. it's being hosted by the young americas foundation. this is live coverage on c-span 3.
florida senator rick scott is a featured speaker at this afternoon's session. he should be starting shortly with our live coverage here on c-span 3. in the meantime, here's a look at our prime time schedule on the c-span networks. at 7:00 p.m. president trump holds a campaign rally with voters and supporters in cincinnati. at 8:00 p.m. on c-span 2, a hearing on legislation that aims to change the roles on asylum seekers while establishing processing centers outside the u.s. and at 8:00 eastern on c-span 3, programs and events related to the civil war. again, we're waiting for florida senator rick scott to speak at the national conservative student conference in washington, d.c. we'll have that for you live.