The Federal Government's Responsibilities and Liabilities Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act

Report
July 27, 2010

Testimony before the House Committee on the Budget

Mr. Chairman, Congressman Ryan, and Members of the Committee, I am pleased to provide updated information about the federal governments responsibilities and liabilities under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA). Since I testified on this topic in 2009, there have been a number of important developments. After signaling its intention to terminate a project to build a geologic repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain--the only site where such waste is authorized to be stored under current law--the Administration announced in January 2010 the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to make recommendations on alternative means of storing, processing, and disposing of nuclear waste. In March, the Administration filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to withdraw its license application to construct a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain. That motion was denied in June by a three-member NRC panel; the Administration has subsequently appealed that decision.

Despite those developments, the federal government remains responsible for permanently disposing of spent nuclear fuel generated by civilian facilities, and the owners of those facilities continue to pay fees for that service. Regardless of how the government meets that responsibility, that task will require a significant amount of federal spending over many decades.