The President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future
In January 2010, President Obama established the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) to provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the nation’s nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel. The Commission, composed of experts from government, academia and industry, looked at both temporary and permanent storage and examined options for public and commercial management of nuclear waste.
BRC Final Report
The Commission issued its final report in January 2012. The report proposes a new strategy for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle that incorporates many of NCSL’s recommendations before the Committee (see testimony below).(see NCSL Activities below)
The new strategy outlined in the BRC report includes eight key elements:
A new, consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities.
A new organization dedicated solely to implementing the waste management program and empowered with the authority and resources to succeed.
Access to the funds nuclear utility ratepayers are providing for the purpose of nuclear waste management.
Prompt efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities.
Prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated storage facilities.
Prompt efforts to prepare for the eventual large-scale transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste to consolidated storage and disposal facilities when such facilities become available.
Support for continued U.S. innovation in nuclear energy technology and for workforce development.
Active U.S. leadership in international efforts to address safety, waste management, non-proliferation, and security concerns
DOE Implementation Plan
On January 13, 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy released the Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste, a framework for moving toward a sustainable program to deploy an integrated system capable of transporting, storing, and disposing of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from civilian nuclear power generation, defense, national security and other activities. The strategy sets a roadmap for Congressional and administrative action to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s final report.
Maryland Delegate Sally Jameson submitted a statement to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on September 11, 2012 highlighting NCSL policies with regards to the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations.
On June 21, 2012, NCSL sent a letter urging the U.S. Senate to support the creation of a pilot program within the Department of Energy to license, construct, and operate consolidated interim storage facilities as needed for spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste. The letter also urged that the siting of such facilities be the result of a consent based approach that involves all affected levels of government, including state legislatures and reiterated NCSL’s support of using the Nuclear Waste Fund to provide interim storage financing mechanisms and incentives to voluntary host communities.
In a March 9, 2012 letter to Congressional leaders, NCSL urged Congress to expeditiously review and act on recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Commission.
On September 13, 2011, Maryland Delegate Sally Young Jameson provided feedback to the Commission on its draft report on behalf of NCSL.
Maine Senator Deborah Simpson testified before the BRC in August of 2010 on NCSL’s position that the federal government needs to live up to its commitment to relieve the burden of high-level nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel from the states. She told the commission that an interim federal facility for the short-term storage of waste would give states breathing room, relieve pressure on on-site storage facilities, and show the public that there is an eventual path to a long-term storage solution. Senator Simpson also told the Commission of Maine’s personal stake in the development of a storage facility due to the decommissioned Maine Yankee nuclear plant that is currently storing high-level waste onsite.
During their July 7, 2010 meeting, New Mexico Representative John Heaton testified before the BRC on the need for an interim storage facility to hold nuclear waste while a permanent repository is being sited and constructed. He also spoke of the success that his home state has had in Carlsbad, New Mexico with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) as well as the usefulness of salt deposits, such as the one utilized by WIPP, for the storage of radioactive waste.
On May 25, 2010, Maryland Delegate Sally Young Jameson, at the time, chair of the NCSL Agriculture and Energy Committee, expressed support for the Commission’s work and encouraged members to instruct the Department of Energy to live up to its mandate to work with state legislatures under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Delegate Jameson also expressed NCSL’s desire to continue working with the Commission and to see the problem of nuclear waste disposal solved in the United States.