EPW Hearing Statement: Hearing on a Discussion Draft Bill, S. __, Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing on a Discussion Draft Bill, S. __, Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening today’s hearing.  As you know, I think any actions dealing with our nation’s spent nuclear fuel is something our committee should discuss and address.

“Our nation’s nuclear power plants are currently storing their spent nuclear fuel on site – in a safe and reliable manner. I’ve been told that the technology we have to store spent nuclear fuel can be stored safely for fifty to hundred years, maybe longer.

“Our nuclear reactors were not designed to keep their spent fuel on-site forever, however. So as our reactors age and are decommissioned, it’s imperative we find an ultimate resting place for our nuclear spent fuel.

“Almost 40 years ago, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to help find a final resting place for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste from our defense programs and from our nuclear energy reactors. Congress felt this action would move this country toward a deep-mined geologic nuclear waste repository. 

“After years of studies and debate, we now find ourselves at a dead-end, with no functioning nuclear waste repository and with nuclear spent fuel building up at our nation’s nuclear power plants. 

“I appreciate the Chairman putting forth a discussion draft on how we can restart this critical conversation. 

“Before Congress takes any actions on nuclear waste, however, we must make sure we are not repeating our mistakes from the past. If we don’t, our country may well find itself 30 years from now in the same dead-end situation we face today.

“I believe that one of the biggest mistakes Congress made was not obtaining the consent from all parties on the location of a disposal. Somehow we’ve learned how to get communities to compete for the siting of prisons in this country, but we haven’t learned how to get communities to compete for our nuclear waste disposal sites.

“As a recovering governor, I know that any actions we take on nuclear waste must include a consent-based approach that fosters a meaningful partnership between federal, local AND state leaders. We must also have open communication with the people who live and work in those communities. 

“We do not have to solve all our nuclear waste issues today, but I believe there are actions we can and must take now to make much-needed progress on this issue. My hope is that this Committee can find common ground on legislation that will do just that. 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I thank our witnesses for being here with us today.  I look forward to today’s discussion.”