Delegate Sally Jameson’s Testimony on behalf of NCSL before the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Denver, Colorado

Good morning Doctor MacFarlane, Doctor Peterson, and members of the Commission staff. I am Sally Jameson, Chair of the National Conference of State Legislature’s Nuclear Legislative Workgroup and a member of NCSL’s Executive Committee. I am also a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. I appear before you today to give you feedback on the Commission’s draft report on behalf of NCSL and to relay comments on the report that I have heard from various Western state legislators.

First, I would like to commend the Commission on the important work that you have accomplished since you began your efforts last year. Nuclear energy is an integral part of the national energy plan, but issues around the storage and disposal of nuclear waste must be resolved. NCSL appreciates the efforts of the Commissioners and Commission staff in addressing this difficult issue in a thoughtful and considerate manner. The Commission’s final report represents an important opportunity to find a permanent, safe and secure solution to America’s nuclear waste problem.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today and to follow up on the testimony that I gave to the Commission in May 2010. During that testimony, I highlighted for you NCSL’s long history of working on nuclear energy issues. For many years, NCSL has hosted working groups of legislators from across the country that have helped develop NCSL policy and advise the federal government on nuclear waste management actions. NCSL has adopted policies regarding the safe handling, transportation and storage of high-level radioactive waste and the cleanup of the federal cold war facilities. I am submitting these policies along with my comments today.

In my previous testimony, and subsequent communications that NCSL has had with the Commission, emphasized a number of critical issues that we urged the Commission to address in its final report. These include:

  • the responsibility of the federal government to develop a program for the long-term treatment and disposal of high-level radioactive waste;
  • the importance of establishing interim storage facilities for used nuclear fuel, particularly for used fuel from decommissioned power plants;
  • the critical role that state legislators play in the development of nuclear energy and waste management policy; and
  • how past and future contributions to the Nuclear Waste Fund should be used to finance a nuclear waste management solution.

For too long, the federal government has failed to live up to its duties under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to establish and implement a nuclear waste management program. The used fuel and other radioactive waste that has accumulated at nuclear power facilities as a result of this lack of federal action poses a potential safety and security issue for states, a fact underscored by the recent nuclear crisis in Japan.

In light of the current administration’s plans to withdraw the license application for the Yucca Mountain site, it is crucial that one or two interim storage facilities be established until a permanent repository is up and running. NCSL applauds the draft report’s recognition that the federal government has not lived up to its responsibilities under the law and the need to establish interim storage facilities.

NCSL was encouraged by the draft report’s call for a consent-based approach to siting and developing interim storage and permanent disposal facilities that relies heavily on state, local and tribal government involvement. As history has shown and as the draft report states, opposition at any level of government can delay or defeat efforts to site a facility. State and local governments must have a role in site selection and licensing. It is important that the Commission’s final report recognize that a strong partnership with state legislatures can help move the nuclear waste management program forward in a positive and proactive manner.

Finally, NCSL is encouraged by the draft report’s recommendations to use the Nuclear Waste Fund for its intended purpose—to support the establishment and implementation of a nuclear waste management program. The federal government should not continue to take billions of dollars from ratepayers on the promise to establish a permanent storage solution without fulfilling that obligation. NCSL’s Radioactive Waste Management Policy urges Congress and the Administration to enact legislation that would ensure that the Nuclear Waste Fund is used for developing interim storage facilities or a permanent repository. In addition, such legislation should establish firewalls so that user fees deposited in the fund will be used for nuclear waste management and will not be subject to non-related federal discretionary spending. Underscoring the need for consistent access to the Nuclear Waste Fund for nuclear waste management activities should be a top priority in the Commission’s final report.

As a bi-partisan organization representing the 50 state legislatures and the legislatures of our nation’s commonwealths, territories and the District of Columbia, NCSL supports the Commission’s efforts to find a solution to nuclear waste management in the U.S.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about the important work of the Commission.